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On Regret

“I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations - one can either do this or that. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this: do it or do not do it - you will regret both.”

I missed my grandmother’s funeral.

If you were to ask me on any given day, at any given point in my life, if I would ever consider missing her funeral, the answer would have been an unequivocal no. And yet I missed it. Not by consequence or conflict. By choice.

I didn’t go.

She was my favorite person in the entire world. One of the only people who loved me unconditionally. And I loved her unconditionally in return. From the time I was a young child until the day she left this earth, and ever after.

The decision to go or not go weighed on me. Right now I feel immense regret, knowing that my entire family was there, but I was not. How could I not have gone?

I had sat by her deathbed just a week prior. Holding her hand, stroking her hair, telling her all the things I’d never get a chance to tell her again. The night I said goodbye to her, my heart broke in two. Leaving her felt impossible. The pain was overwhelming. I could barely breathe. For a moment it felt as though time had frozen, knowing this would be the last time I saw her alive. I looked back at her lying quietly in the bed, her tufts of white hair glistening in the moonlight, the snow softly falling outside. I burned that vision into my memory. A moment of serenity. Of peace. My daughter embraced me as a cried silent tears, and we made the journey home.

She died the next day, less than 24 hours after I softly kissed her forehead and told her I loved her. I took comfort knowing that she wasn’t in pain. I found solace in the fact that she went fairly quickly, in a matter of days rather than months. When the funeral arrangements were made, I had every intention of going. I booked a flight and a hotel room.

And then something felt wrong. I didn’t know what it was then, and I still don’t know what it is now. I felt an immense desire to not go. To stay home.

The day before the funeral, I still had a chance to go. I could have booked a ticket that evening. It would have been logistically difficult, but not impossible. I woke up at 4am, and hemmed and hawed over the decision. I felt sick. What was I thinking, not going? I battled with myself all day, until the plane had departed and the decision was made for me. And yet by nightfall, I felt at peace with the decision.

Until the next morning. When it was too late to get there. When the funeral livestream that I had requested felt cold and detached. When I could hear my young nephews coughing and my cousins laughing, and see my aunt and uncle crying, and I couldn’t reach out and touch any of them. When the ceremony feed cut out more quickly than I anticipated, and I didn’t get to see my mother say goodbye to her mother. When I didn’t get a chance to see her in her casket. When I realized I was the only one, of her thirteen living grandchildren, who wasn’t there. I was crushed. It was a sucker punch to the gut. I cried. My husband consoled me. I cried some more. My daughter consoled me some more.

I knew I might regret not going. I knew there was a high probability that I would. And at the moment I do. But I still can’t explain why I felt such a compelling urge to not go. It was something deep inside of me. Maybe I was afraid. Afraid of the intense emotions that surround funerals. Afraid to witness my mother’s grief.

Or maybe when my heart broke in two on that snowy winter night, something happened.

That was our moment. Our precious final moment together, no witnesses, no pomp and circumstance, just the two of us. A love that was so pure, so divine, that it was other worldly in nature. Maybe I needed that to be my final memory of her. Not of her lifeless body in a casket, not of her being lowered into the damp earth. But of her breathing. Still. At peace. I will treasure that memory of her, hand in mine, until the day I die.

Though I’m currently feeling deep pangs of regret, I know deep down that everything will be ok. This is the consequence of being fully human, of having free will, of knowing that any choice you make might not have the outcome you desired. It’s painful, and raw and real. But as my grandmother taught me, this too shall pass.

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