A friend of mine died last week: heart attack, from out of nowhere. Joanne was a wonderful woman: full of life, a joy to be around. We were friendly in high school, then drifted. That happens. But I’d just seen her at our reunion this summer, and we struck up a great conversation. Joanne lives, well, lived in Connecticut, but we promised each other we’d get together for lunch the next time she was in town visiting her parents.
That kind of thing brings you up short, doesn’t it? In fact, there was a whole poster board at our reunion dedicated to those classmates of ours who’d passed away. “There but for the grace of God” it read below their names. I remember looking at that and thinking, that’s just a nice way of saying, “Thank God it wasn’t me (or anyone I love).” That’s what really separates us middle-aged folks from the kids. We know it could happen anytime, to us, to our family. And most likely it has.
It’s been seven and a half years since my mother passed away, the conclusion of our four year “cancer journey,” as the folks at hospice put it. What a roller coaster ride that was! Makes me dizzy to this day just thinking about it.
When Mom was sick, Dad, Irene, and me had a little thing we kept saying to each other: “No regrets.” Our feeling was that grieving was going to be hard enough. Why muddy it up with regrets? If a little voice in our head said, Call the doctor and ask him if there’s anything more we can do about the pain, we called. If Mom mentioned how she might like to go strawberry picking, off we went. A lobster dinner? Sure! We talked to her about her life, told her what great mother she was. We asked her if she was scared. Tough conversations, but in the long run it was a lot better than carrying around a truck load of regrets.
Makes me think of a conversation I had with Dottie a while back. She was having some family trouble. Her brother, Frank, was drinking too much, and she was real worried about him. Dottie didn’t want to confront him, though. “He’ll stop talking to me,” she says. But you could tell she was all balled up about it.
“Listen, Dottie, are you having meaningful conversations with him now?”
“Well, jeez, what if he got in a car accident on his way home from the Brew Ha Ha and died or something? How would you feel about not talking to him about his drinking?”
“I’d never forgive myself.”
“So, you’ve got nothing to lose, right? Talk to him! But don’t get your hopes up. He probably won’t quit drinking.”
“Then what’s the point, Ida?”
“The point, Dottie, is no regrets. At least you’ll know in your heart that you did what you could. You’re conscience will be clear.”
Joanne and me never got to have our date, but you know what? I’m taking myself out to lunch in her honor. I’m going to go down to the Busy Bee and order a grilled cheese with tomato and bacon, side of fries, a coffee frappe, and think about Joanne and all the fun times we had. I’m going to drink a toast to her memory. And I’m going to get off my butt and make a “No Regrets” list. Kind of like a “bucket list,” but the items don’t all have to be big ones. Simple things, like always kissing my husband hello and good-bye whether he’s driving me crazy or not. Thanks for the reminder, Joanne!
That’s it for now. Catch you on the flip side!
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