I'm currently in a wrestling match with regret. At the moment, it has me pinned to the mat, and the only way I know how to break the stranglehold it has on me is to tell the truth, and give it some light. After my mom died, I told someone I had no regrets and that I did everything I could. I said I could rest comfortably knowing my mother left this world, feeling how deeply I loved her. The love part was true; the regret part was a lie.
I do have one regret that haunts me. I regret the pressure I put on my mother to heal. I wanted her to be a unicorn. I wanted her to be the one in a million to beat this. I wanted to heal her.
So, I was relentless in my pursuit of healing. I didn't just have hope; I had relentless hope. It was all-consuming, and it was truth-denying. Eventually, it would start to eat away at us both.
I was obsessive, vigilant, and perhaps a little insane. The doctor who noted in my mom's chart that I was a hyper-vigilant hippie was not wrong. I laughed when I heard it and doubled down on the hypervigilance and the alternative remedies.
I later admitted to my husband that it broke my heart to see the sadness in cancer waiting rooms, but deep inside, I was a bit smug as I knew we would never have to see the disease progress to that state. I am embarrassed to say this, but I truly believed I was my mother's secret weapon. I was why she would live. The people in the waiting rooms didn't have my resourcefulness, my commitment, my hope. My mother was a unicorn, and so was I. We, together, would win this battle.
Looking back now, what I had was not hope. It was hyper-vigilance, with perhaps a healthy dose of delusion. I thought my vigilance was no match for cancer. I put so much pressure on my mom to do the impossible and to defy death. I put the same pressure on myself.
The pressure robbed us of presence. I spent so much time saving my mother that I forgot to see her. She was shrinking and losing energy, and I refused to see it.
She just wanted to be with me, but I was reluctant. I had to keep pushing; I had to save her. I could not stop for a moment. If I quit, then I would lose her.
My brothers spent my 43rd birthday dinner crying after watching my mother struggle to get through the day. I was secretly angry at them for seeing the truth. I blamed chemo and doctors, and she stopped juicing on her physical changes. I had no time for tears. I was looking for solutions.
Eventually, I stopped pushing, but only because she was dying, and I could no longer deny it. I felt so guilty that I had failed her. I felt so useless that I was not a healer. I felt so sad that our dynamic duo had not beaten death.
Somehow I was able to set that aside and walk my mom home. I saw her, I loved her, and she was radiant. She was a unicorn in death, defying all timelines and doing it her way.
Moments of my old self still cropped up. As dying became harder, my presence agitated my mother. I would walk into the room, and she would get restless. The hospice workers asked me to let her go and to give her permission to go. I laughed through my tears and said I have; she knows. Once I finally accepted her death, we had hard conversations.
I wonder if part of her didn't believe me, that I would let her go. I didn't think I could survive her death, so I fought relentlessly for both of us. During that time, I never told her I was sorry for the pressure I put on her or that I was sorry for clinging to her life so desperately to save mine. I hope she knows I'm sorry I was such a pain in the ass.
I wasn't in the room when my mother transitioned. At first, not being there haunted me. I now believe that was something we couldn't do together.
It took months to realize that my job was never to heal my mother's cancer. My job was to love her.
In the last weeks of her life, my mom healed her spirit and her soul. Only later did I realize we did our job; my mom's body was never meant to heal, but her spirit was. The journey we were on was a soul journey.
Our relationship continues now. It's bigger and deeper than it was. The irony now is that I am always looking for my mother. I see her everywhere. I know her soul; I treasure her visits.
I regret not seeing my mother when she was right in front of me. I regret desperately clinging to her physical form.
Part of the definition of regret is a missed opportunity. At times I missed the opportunity to be fully present with my mom because I was so lost in desperation to keep her. The gift of her moving on is that she is teaching me presence and reminding me that my only job is to love.
I'm a slow learner, I still wrestle with regret and the what if's, but slowly I am learning to let go, ask for forgiveness and offer it to myself.
Mom, I am sorry. Love, the hypervigilant hippie