One of the things that death clarifies like a magnifying glass on a dying leaf in the summer sun is the regrets that collect inside of us over a lifetime. These regrets are kind of like soul missions that we missed the cues on. They require an immense capacity for forgiveness. I began to understand the quality of these regrets while listening to the outpouring of love for a young woman who recently passed in my community. She had a challenging illness that brought her great physical pain and limitation, but she was so totally immersed in love that her pain was continuously transmuted to something beautiful and whole in her evolving artwork, in her relationships everywhere she went, even in the tragic ending of her too short life. All you could feel is love. Her father said it best, “I have no regrets, except for what I will miss in a future we won’t share.”
If you count life in love and not years, which I think is the most accurate calculation, this young woman was ions older than my dad who lived to 80. And regrets, there are too many to count. The ways that I wasted years, decades even, waiting for an apology that felt true. The ways that I could not hold the parts of him that lived in me with anything more than shame. The ways that I could not open my life or my heart to him. The ways that I could never go home again.
By the time that I realized that I needed to work on forgiveness with him and was making regular effort, decades had past. Everything had hardened into what seemed like immovable forms. There were brief glimpses of hearts being shown, moments of soft recognition of what was lost, moments of true presence when we laughed together. I have only this to content myself with now. The continued work of trying to forgive the many ways I couldn’t forgive before. Yesterday, a friend said to me that the most challenging deaths that we deal with are the ones that require us to grieve all that we never had. This feels true and I am a bit stunned at the ways that only death could show it to me. Everything feels sadder and yet also more clear than ever before. I know now why I have spent the rest of my life learning how to love, by trying to teach it. I know now why my husband and my kids are the anchor of my life and the mooring that makes all my voyages into the universe possible.
Not only is who we loved and who loved us back the only equation that matters in the last moments of our life, it is also the only thing that really matters in every moment. Pay now or pay later, the ways that we turn towards or turn our back on love will inform and shape us longer than til death do we part…
Sorry Dad, I wish I could have gotten it sooner.