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“No Regrets” Is a Lie

During Elli’s visitation a few weeks ago, someone said to me, “Oh, you don’t have any regrets.”

I responded, “Actually, I do.”

The assumption that anyone could honestly say they don’t have any regrets seems to me to be naive at best, flat-out-lie at worst. Despite doing the best we can, everyone makes mistakes or bad decisions. Everyone sometimes chooses to put themselves first, instead of others; chooses to indulge instead of sacrifice; chooses the easy way (or the lower risk) with the lower payoff instead of the hard road (or greater risk) with the big reward. I sure did.

So yes, I have regrets as Elli’s mom. Fortunately, most of them are relatively minor in the scheme of things. And most of them are choices I made based on a false assumption that she would live longer. I suspect this a mistake we all make – thinking that we have all the time in the world. I had good reason to know better though.

I wish that I had indulged her love of girly things more: painted her fingernails and toenails regularly, pierced her ears, helped her play dolls and ponies with Little Girl.

I wish that we had applied for a Make-A-Wish trip for her. I made the mistake of assuming she had time to wait a little while til all the siblings were older.

I wish that I had not allowed my swollen ankle or my fatigue or the pile of dirty dishes or the thought “I deserve some me-time” to excuse me from the bedtime routine with the kids so often.

I wish that I had spent less time making phone calls and filling out forms and all that busy work when she was home. I should have played with her more in those precious hours after school.

I wish I had taken more pictures and more video of her this year.

I wish I had visited her and had lunch with her at school more often.

I wish I had hauled myself out of bed earlier that morning and gone in to get her up first instead of Little Boy. (Not that I think she’d be alive now if I had – I just wish that I could have been with her when she met Jesus.)

But wallowing in guilt and regret won’t change anything. It doesn’t make me feel any better. It denies the forgiveness that God gives for the sinful choices we make and the grace that He gives for the foolish choices we make. It allows guilt to hinder my ability to be thankful for all the good choices we made and all His gifts of time and laughter and companionship.

God gave us many gifts those last days. He gave us a weekend trip that included my ten-year college reunion and the renewing of many friendships that are so encouraging now. That same weekend, we spent some time with Scott’s family at that house. We hadn’t been there since July because of Little Boy’s surgery. Elli relished her special tea party with her Mamaw and great grandmother that Sunday afternoon.

The next weekend, He gave Dear Husband and I some time to ourselves the weekend prior to rest and talk, because He knew that we had a very difficult month ahead of us. And He didn’t take Elli while we were gone.

I had more time with Elli than normal her last week. I had to take her a well-check on Wednesday, so I picked her up early from school that day. Thursday morning the school bus broke down, so I took her to school, a special treat. Friday I stopped by the school during her lunch to drop off supplies and visit her. I gave Elli a shower Saturday morning, which was very rare for me. We spent the day just cuddling on the couch, til she fell asleep. I vividly remember eating lunch and watching her sleep, enjoying the sight of her so peaceful.

So I’m coming to peace with my regrets. I’m trying to use them the way God would have me use them — to show me my selfishness and to drive me to seek His help and His Spirit to serve my family more sacrificially. And I’m soaking in those good memories, even though right now they are accompanied by a messy blend of tears and joy.

[As an aside, if you are looking for insight into how to help a grieving friend, or if you are grieving yourself, I highly recommend the book “Tear Soup.” We received a copy from the hospital the day Elli died, and it was very helpful. It’s written like a story book, so it could be useful for children as well as adults, and gives a great analogy for what grief is like.]

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