The Other Side of Regret

IMG_8348When I was in school as a kid, at the end of each school year we had a program. Families would watch as their children collected awards from their teachers for their accomplishments throughout the year. One year in particular sticks out to me. My nana gave me an old Felix the Cat necklace. Felix wasn’t exactly “en vogue” and beyond that as a child who was very particular about her clothing and jewelry, I was quite bothered that the necklace didn’t match my outfit. I feigned excitement to the best of my ability. She asked if I wanted help putting it on and I told her I would wear it later and balled it up and put it in my pocket. When later my nana became very sick and eventually passed away, I remember crying inconsolably, devastated about her death, but fixated on the necklace. “I should have worn it,” I cried, “I should have just put it on and made her happy!” It was the last thing my nana ever gave me and I hadn’t even kept track of it. Honestly, to this day I have no clue where Felix the Cat is. Did I throw it away? Did it get lost?

My mother attempted to comfort me, telling me my nana loved me whether or not I wore the necklace and knew I loved her. Despite the comfort offered, I’ve always felt a bit guilty about what happened with the necklace. Wearing it wouldn’t have cost me anything and as I think on it now, not wearing it and not keeping track of it feels like a pretty big loss. My grandparents all died in a 5 year window before I even exited my teens. While my vibrant memory allows for some reminiscing and recollection… I’ll always remember the softness of my nana’s skin, her smell, how she said, “See you later, Alligator,” the way she waved goodbye at the front porch until we could no longer see the house as our car drove away, her laugh… I’m sad to say I don’t always remember much about my grandparents. I also never got to have some of the beautiful relationships I see my peers have with their grandparents as adults. I also witnessed the grief of my parents at a very young age as I watched them mourn the loss of their parents in their own ways. With all the years that have passed and how young I was when they died, I remember how sad I felt to lose them, but the sadness from the actual loss has dissipated. And yet, there’s still that necklace. The sobering reminder that you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. The image of what regret looks like, fully believing that something is a good idea in the moment, but feeling the sting of your poor choice in hindsight. I’ve grown and changed a lot and certainly the necklace doesn’t haunt me daily. I know I was just a kid doing the kind of thing kids tend to do… Having no real concept of time or love or loss.

A moment’s decision can change your life. It can wreck you in the worst ways or give you so much joy you never look back. You can’t always know the weight of your decisions in the present, but in reflecting, you will feel its heaviness and it will change you. I hope I will always remember that necklace. When I speak from a place of judgment, lash out in anger, live into negativity rather than change my attitude, make a joke at someone else’s expense, or any of the other numerous ways I basically make regret a guarantee…

I do believe my mother’s words. I know my nana loved me and I know she knew how much I loved her, even despite everything with Felix the Cat and that’s what blows me away. In the midst of regret, there is love. There are still consequences for our actions, there will still be pain, but then there is also forgiveness, warmth, and grace. So much grace…

In seasons of hardship and confusion, may I remember the brevity of life and the heaviness of responsibility for my words and actions, but may I also always remember the love that catches me on the other side of regret.

 

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