Love, Loss and Regret

A life without regret is a life without lessons learned.  Regret isn't pleasant or something I revel in.  But, I would rather look at this part of my life a little more optimistically.

Loss is one of life's hardest lessons.  This past month, I've taken a heartbreaking look back at a loss that I don't believe I'll ever get over.  And, its a loss that I'm trying to finally come to terms with.

The year before I married, I lost a dear friend to suicide.  Just typing that word is difficult.  Saying it is really unbearable.  And in the midst of registering for wedding gifts and all the planning, I missed the last chance to ever talk to him.  We had been playing phone tag for several days.  Its a regret that I can never take back.

Someone cruelly said to me once in response to this regret, "Its rather egocentric to think you could have changed his mind."  I don't think of that phone call that I missed that way.  It is the selfish regret of not having one more memory - something to hold on to.

The night I took Craig to the train station to go home to his parents for the summer, I returned home.  It was late afternoon.  My dad leaned back into his chair, put his hands behind his head and delivered the news.  The initial shock left me numb before the calls started to pour into my parents house.  And I don't think that I even cried much.  That night, after all of the motions, I crawled into bed and sobbed into the darkness.

Eighteen years later, I still cry.  He shared my sisters birthday.  That terrible day was right after my husband's birthday.  And every year, I never forget.   For his family, I cannot imagine the gravity of those dates in their lives.  Those tears I cry some days are for his parents and sister.  Other days, I cry for him and the pain he must have been in.  Still other days, I cry because I miss that person that could just call and had so many connections to.

I go back to my old high school for work several times a year.  Every time, I see that spot on the benches out front where he and I would sit with our friends on break and before school.  I am reminded of pranks and notes passed in the halls.

This year, as I approached that dreaded date, I listened to an episode of This American Life that brought out a flood of emotions.  The segment focused on a place in Utah that helps children deal with grief.  Many of the children that participate in this program are suicide survivors where a parent has committed suicide.  As I listened the day after my husband's birthday, this story sent me into a three day crying fit that I'm still recovering from.

But, it also made me come to a realization about this loss that I think is long overdue.  Am I over it?  No, I don't think its really possible.   My sister told me several years ago that I should face the fact that I would never be over it because of how it happened.  While I was angry at the time, there is some painful truth to that.

I think the past 18 years have been clouded by that final punctuation mark, and it has been difficult to remember the happy and good things that made him so special.  This week I managed to push past the most difficult final memory and reach back to a time when I couldn't image life without this person in my life.

There were lots of happy memories to be had.  Nights at the movies, riding around and talking on weekends and after school, and going to the mall.  We were there together when other friends and classmates left us in high school.  We took classes together in high school and college.  Even after all of this time, there is a void that cannot and will not be filled in my life.  Some friendships are this way - and this is one of those.  

And where does that leave me?  The night of my friend's wake, his mother said something to me that I have never forgotten.  "He loved you.  He loved everyone, but he loved you special."  With the painful loss and overwhelming regret, I'm still left with love.  It is something that was real.  It can't be taken away and still exists even after all of these years.

My son is sleeping peacefully.  Our house is quiet.  That two year old is so innocent and doesn't know loss or regret.  I hope it is a long time before he knows those later two.

He does know the love of his family and our friends.  Love is the most important part.  It is what he will know first, and what I hope he always knows.

My hope for him is that he will develop those friendships that I had growing up that I still have today.  Because even though there has been loss, there are still so many people in my life that I love and cherish.  And it is the love of those around you that carries you through the tough times of loss and regret.  While I can't forget the past and what is lost, I don't want that to overshadow the love that I'm surrounded with daily.

As I go into another year without that piece of my heart, I hope that I can allow myself to feel less loss and regret.  I'll always look back.  That part of my life and that friendship shaped a lot of who I am as an adult.  I can't remove that chunk of my life and never look back.  I don't want to.

But, I do want to take what I have learned from the love, loss and regrets in my life and use it to make a difference in how I live.  There will be more times ahead where there is loss and regret, but I know that I'll always have love - from those that I have lost and those that surround me now.  And that is what matters most.