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The Last Conversation I Had With My Sister

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It had been a long day. We had spent most of the day working outside, helping my sister get her flowerbeds ready, and I was beat. Our plan was to go home, clean up, and come back for dinner. When we got home and cleaned up, I was exhausted. She called me and asked if we were heading over. After a pause, I said, “I’m just too tired, I think we will skip tonight and catch you later in the week. I love you. Bye.” And with one sentence, I missed the last opportunity I would have to spend time with her.

Our Saturday was full. It was a time of family. We spent the day, as family and friends, helping my sister and brother-in-law take care of things around the house. While we worked outside, my wife had spent the day inside with my sister and my daughter and nephew, playing and visiting while my sister recovered from her latest treatment. It was a good and fun day helping her accomplish things she simply did not have the strength to do. Her cancer battle was beginning to take its toll, and she just could not keep up with everything.

The last six months had been a whirlwind. After the diagnosis of brain cancer, treatment had begun swiftly as we rallied around her and her family, supporting them on this new and difficult journey they were walking. It was a terrifying and stressful time, but also a time that brought us together as a family in ways we had not been before. We looked for ways to spend time together and for those six months, we were inseparable. But not that night.

That night I was tired and just didn’t feel like going out again. I was counting on the fact that I would have other days with her, but I did not. When I got the call the next morning that she was in the hospital and not responding, even then, I did not fear the worst, and assumed like many things there would be more opportunities in the future, but I was wrong.

By the time we got to the hospital, she was barely responding. In so much pain and on so many medications, she was out. We tried to interact but barely received garbled groans in return. When the doctor came in, it was not good news. The tumors were growing and most likely she would never wake up. Our family was devastated, but on top of that, guilt began to wash over me.

Why had I done it? Why had I chosen rest over time spent with her? My last conversation had been to say that rest was more important, and that I did not have time to get together. In a sense, I felt like I had denied her dying request, and it was a decision that haunted me for years. I had squandered my last opportunity to spend time with her. These were the regrets and guilt, whether justified or not, that were going through my head.

Mentally and emotionally, I beat myself up over and over again, and felt as though I had let her down, and that I had not been there for her when I could have been. In some ways, I condensed our entire relationship down to one singular event and beat myself up for being selfish.

In reality, this guilt and these feeling were not true and honestly were not fair to me or to our relationship. The regret poisoned my soul and for years I could not forgive myself. In reality, though, there was nothing to forgive. Me not going over there did not negate the love I had for my sister, it did not negatively define our relationship, it was simply a choice, just like the hundreds of others I made each day. Do I still regret missing that time? Absolutely, but I’ve learned to give myself that grace, and I have forgiven myself for that choice.

Living with regrets can be hard and places a burden on us that we unfairly bear. If we are not careful, it becomes the entirety of our relationship and overshadows everything. It also focuses us on negative instances, instead of focusing and remembering the good and positive things that made our life and that relationship so wonderful. While these regrets can have the positive effect of driving us to treasure each moment and the time we are given, if left unchecked and not dealt with, these regrets can grow into anger, bitterness, and depression that can greatly impact our lives and the lives of those around us.

We all miss opportunities we could kick ourselves for later, but even in these missed opportunities, we must give ourselves the grace and forgiveness to see the events for what they are and treasure the memories and times we had together. Sometimes, the greatest gift we can give ourselves and others is forgiveness and grace, and until we do that, we can never truly move on and begin to heal from our loss. Don’t let a regret or mistake define and encompass the relationship that was so special to you. Your relationship is more than that regret. Honor their memory by remembering this and focusing on all that was good and special about this person that no longer walks among us.

Getty image by damircudic

Originally published: January 24, 2022
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