Saturday, January 16, 2010

If only......

I've had these thoughts rattling around my noggin for a while now, but tonight - I feel the urgency to post. 
I'm not sure who for, but I know I need to post it.  Now.  Tonight.
Gonna be long, bear with me, and you get a prize if you actually read the whole thing.

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

Phrases that we generally don't like to have in our vocabulary.  However, all too often, they're there looming like dark clouds, and most often we either choose to ignore or  we self-medicated to forget. 
Often there is a certain time or circumstance or experience that we wish we could go back and do again.  Differently.  Sometimes those woulda, coulda, shoulda thoughts consume us.  They plague us.  They haunt us.

My dad died with I was 14.  Heart Attack.  He was 36.  Yeah I know, too young.  And of course, any physician who ever hears that, freaks out and wants a complete cardiac work up on me even if I have stubbed my toe.
The day he died was a Saturday.  My parents had recently divorced (nasty one), we had moved from our home and the ward/neighborhood I had grown up in and I was a pissy 14 year old.  It was our Saturday to visit him.  We (me and my toddler sister) were at his apartment, just hanging out.  He made lunch and was laying on the couch.  I was laying on the floor underneath his glass coffee table and being a BRAT.  I remember he asked me to get something for him and I said no.  He asked again, telling me that his chest hurt.  I was so bratty I said no.  I didn't think much of it then, I was all consumed in my own life that I considered miserable at the time, and the rest of the visit went uneventful.
He died that early evening after dropping us off back at home.  He had returned to his apartment, gotten ready to take a shower and suffered a massive Myocardial Infarction (heart attack).
When I eventually understood the symptoms of a heart attack, I was racked with guilt.  I know, I was being a typical bratty teenager, but I should have been nicer. I should have helped him when he asked.  Why did my last day with him have to be so pissy?
For YEARS, I felt terrible about it.  I blamed myself.  I was sure it was all my fault, and if I had just helped him, his chest pain would have gone away, and he would have been fine.
Of course, now as a 43 year old woman, I can see the big picture.  I can see that things happen for a reason.  I cut myself some slack for being the bratty 14 year old that I was.  I also understand that my refusal to help him was not the leading cause of his death.  His poor genes, eating habits and lifestyle choices were the cause of his death.  But the sad thing is, it took me years to get to that conclusion.  A lot of years with a dark cloud over my head, and a weight on my shoulders that wasn't easy to share.

Some years ago, we had some close friends in our sons little league baseball.  The man was my youngest son's all star coach.  We were very fond of them and had some great times at the ball field.  One night, he and his wife were out with friends, bowling and drinking.  He and his wife got into a fight, some very harsh words and threats were exchanged and within a few hours, our friend took his own life.  Try explaining that to three under 12 year old boys.  I have had some contact with his wife off and on since then and I can see in her face, in her eyes, that she has never gotten over that.  Think about it.  Your last words with your spouse full of hate, venom, and anger.  It haunts her.  I see it and it hurts my heart.  The day we got the call explaining what had happened, we sat our boys down and made a pact.  We would never leave the house, or hang up the phone or part ways, without telling each other that we loved them.  All these years later, I am proud to say, we are still pretty dang good about it.  Even when we might not have felt like saying those words, we did and still do.  It's just habit now.

Last week Splenda attended a funeral.  A female coworker's son (in his early twenties) took his own life.  He left a note expressing his feelings of failure and not being able to cope with the things life was throwing him.  He had made some choices that left him in the difficult state of being a father too soon while living a lifestyle that was opposite of how he had been raised.  He didn't feel he could do it, and took the route of escape.
Splenda came home from the funeral and shared some things.  Of course there were family members who spoke of wishing they could have known how he felt, and wishing that they could have done something to prevent his suicide.  All very normal feelings I would imagine.  Then his scoutmaster spoke.  His scoutmaster was very real in his feelings for this young man.  He shared stories of how this kid used to push his buttons and how he was a challenge but in all of this stories, he was clear about his feelings for the kid.  He loved him.  This scoutmaster served as a father figure for the young man ever since his parents divorced.  In fact, his mom used to threaten, "Don't make me call Richard". The boy respected him and loved him.  And the scoutmaster felt that in return, despite the trouble he caused.

And then that scoutmaster shared his own story.  His daughter has been missing now for 15 years.  She went to school one day and never came home.  They have found her killers, but never her body.  He shared his last morning with her.  She didn't want to go to school and was arguing about it, and dragging her feet.  Her mother was waiting for her in the car, and her dad finally so angered yelled "Get your damn makeup and get the hell outta here!".  Those were his last words to her.  I can't imagine the torment you would feel.  I think it might be more than I could possibly take.  However, this man shared an additional thought.  He said, "If I had to do it over again, I probably would have yelled the same thing, but then hugged her and told her I loved her."

There are times we don't get mulligans.  Times we don't get to cry out "Do over!".  What if someone you loved was suddenly gone tomorrow?  Would you be okay about your relationship?  Would you be alright with your last words with them?

As I have thought this over, I also realize that a relationship involves two or more people.  You can only be responsible for yourself, you can't control anyone else.  So as I review my different relationships with family members and friends, I think about my end of it.  Am I at peace with how I feel towards that person, and if they were to suddenly be gone from this earth, would I be okay, or would I be racked with guilt about things I should have said, or done, or didn't say or didn't do?

Life can be gone in an instant.  You never know when someone may be taken from you.  I have a firm and steadfast belief in a loving Heavenly Father and an eternal afterlife in which we can be with our families,   However, when someone leaves to take on that immortal journey, we are left on this earth to go on without them.  It will be our choice whether or not we go on at peace with ourselves, happy, and awaiting a joyful reunion.  Or not.

For me?  I'm gonna work on the peace, happy and joyful reunion choice.

PS  I love you



Erin said...

Wow, Melissa, that was beautiful. I know I make it a point to tell my husband and kids I love them every day as they go about their business. But this is a great reminder to continue doing it, even (or especially) as they get older.

Megan and Devin said...

GREAT reminder. I have always had a fear of losing someone I love at one of those moments when I could have said or done something so much better. I think I do a pretty good job of telling Dev and our families how much I love them, but I could do better.
Always great posts from Melissa. Thanks for entertaining me.

Chief said...

this made my heart hurt.

I lost my dad at 14.. my parents were divorced. So many things I felt just like you did, why didn't I get to know him?

and then this scoutmasters story. How heartbreaking. My worst fear.

I love you to

ex oh ex oh

P.S. I thought you were 54?

Jewls said...

Great post M*Cat! My goal in life is to always make my parting words with friends and family be sweet ones in case they're my last!

glittersmama said...

I thought you were like 22. The whole granddaughter thing was growing me off though.

Good reminders. Thank you for sharing this.

glittersmama said...

I thought you were like 22. The whole granddaughter thing was growing me off though.

Good reminders. Thank you for sharing this.

linda said...

Wow, I literally was hanging onto your every word! Thank you for this heartfelt reminder.

My heart hurts for the scoutmaster but truly it could have happened to any one of us I'm sure.

After reading this, I need to call me kids, sisters, parents, friends!

Patricia said...

This is such a great post and a wonderful reminder to us all to maybe be a little more watchful of our words and deeds.

Pedaling said...

beautiful post.
it should be a talk---

tammy said...

I think about this quite often because, let's face it, I'm a worrier. I always think "what if". But I still could do better at making sure everyone knows how much I appreciate and love them.

M-Cat, love you.

Merri Ann said...

Great post ... thanks for doing it.

wonder woman said...

Oh, I'm not sure who this post is for, but it's poignant and I'm sure it will make a difference.

My family has always been good about parting with "I love yous," which I am so grateful for.

I am so sorry for the burden you carried for so many years. And that there are so many still carrying those burdens.

Ironically, I clicked on and started reading you post while waiting for a Post Secret link to load. It's a fundraiser for the suicide prevention hotline. Check out for details.

Cassie said...

Wow, what some great things to think about. In October my dad had 2 heart attacks he survived and it really made me think about my relationships and where I stood with those I love. Thanks again for the reminder!

Vanessa said...

Thanks for making me cry...GOSH.

My remarried a guy after a nasty divorce w/my And then my died. Her new husband was a lot different then my I never would call him grandpa, but my brother didn't know our real and would call this guy One day without thinking, I snapped at my brother and said:"Call him Bob, he's not our grandpa!" And Bob heard me. I forever felt bad about that. He was always nice to me and took care of my So when he was diagnosed w/ cancer a few years ago and it wasn't looking good, I wrote him a letter and apologized. I felt better about getting that off my chest because I couldn't live with him thinking I really felt that way over a stupid comment I made as a teenager.

Great words of advice! Where is my tissue?

Plain Jame said...

Seriously love this. One of the best things you've written. Makes one think and stuff.
Love ya too. So glad you're in my life. Your joy is infectious.

Loralee and the gang... said...

I am touched by your story. And it's making me think about things in my life that I need to get better at, and fast. Thanks for reminding me. Perfect timing.
Love your guts

Suzie said...

Very powerful words here.
My heart feels your pain about your dad, but i am impressed that you have perspective about it and I am very inspired by the words that can teach so much.
Hope you have 1000 chances to share this beaufiful message.
thanks for sharing with us.


Thank you for these sweet words! What a great reminder of how quickly life can change and how quickly what we value most can be gone forever.

Natalie said...

Melissa you are amazing! I never knew the story of how your dad died. The whole thing breaks my heart...because what 14-year old girl isn't bratty? Especially right after her parent's nasty divorce. And what 14-year old would recognize the signs of heart problems. None that I know. Thanks for sharing this message!!!! You made me really stop and think!

tiburon said...

Geez! You get all sappy on me and make me tear up.

Well done M-Cat.

CountessLaurie said...

Tough post, but so true. Thanks for sharing and for the reminder that life is precious!