A long time ago, when I began to write these weekly essays, I made a promise to myself. After careful reflection, I understood that as much as I could touch some people with the kinds of stories I would write about people and relationships, I could touch others here. I could be transparent, and in so doing I would be sending what I felt was a very important message: we’re all very much like one another. Our similarities as people on this earth far outweigh our differences, and, most importantly, no one, really, is alone in the journey they travel through life.
We’re all in the same boat.
People, being people, often suffer in isolation. They go through the trials of life and think that they’re the only ones who’ve ever been through this, or have felt that. But when they learn they are not the only ones, a small but crucial part of their burden is lifted.
That was my purpose in writing Wednesday’s Words: to offer something that would help someone. If even just one person feels better after reading my essay than they felt before, I count that as a massive victory. I’ve heard from many of you over the years and I feel exceptionally blessed to have touched you, even a little.
However, sometimes being transparent is not easy.
As any of you who follow me of Face Book know, recent days have found me dealing with a death in my family. My only sister passed away on June 2nd.
My relationship with my sister, six years my senior, was complicated, and that is an understatement. I don’t really remember a lot of what my family as a whole was like before my father died. But looking back from where I am in life now, I understand that he was our lynchpin.
My sister lived wild. She stepped outside of conformity from the time she was just a young teen. Because I don’t believe that there is any such thing as behavior without reason, I find myself wondering what had happened to her to send her on her ultimately self-destructive path.
I really don’t want to delve too deeply into that here. The truth is, I will never really know. And really, there is nothing I can do about any of what may or may not have happened back then. There certainly wasn’t anything I could have done at the time. She may have only been 13 or so when she began to live as she chose; but I was barely 7.
Both of us were children, and both of us, therefore, blameless.
What I wanted to share with you was that in the last twenty years or so, I made a conscious choice to let go of past hurts, and live my life according to my own moral code. She was my sister; I was there for her when I could be, and helped her if at all possible.
I would drive to the city to spend the day ferrying her and her husband about, as neither of them drove or had access to a car; when she needed to go somewhere special, like when she wanted to get him his recliner, I took them to the stores they could not easily reach by bus. Every spring except this last one, I would bring her out to the countryside near to where we grew up so she could cut a bucket full of lilac stems. No, they don’t last much more than 48 hours, but for that short time she had the pleasure of them, and the memories of her youth.
She had planters on her tiny apartment’s balcony filled with flowers she would acquire when I would take her out to the garden center in May– whichever garden center she wanted to visit, made no difference to me. I think, over the years, we hit most of them in a twenty-five mile radius.
Each December I would buy her an amaryllis and several boxes of chocolate covered cherries. I consistently refused payment for these things or for the gas to drive her around to wherever she needed to go.
In short, I did what I could do and now, now that she is gone, I can say I have no regrets. I didn’t let the past stand in the way. Make no mistake, dealing with her as I have done these past many years was quite difficult. She could push my buttons like no other, and wasn’t always—or even often—kind to me.
But I did what I could do, and I have no regrets.
Maybe there is someone in your life with whom you need to mend a fence; maybe it means that you will be swallowing your pride to do so. But maybe that would be a less bitter tonic for you to ingest than a lifetime of regret from which there is no relief, should you fail to do so.
Once a person is gone, then all chances to mend fences, to make apologies, or to make a difference are lost forever. And in the place of that hope, the bitter root of regret will grow and thrive and could end up consuming far more than its fair portion.