He Died Before I could Tell Him I Loved Him.

Via Stacey Broder
on Nov 6, 2015
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Flickr/Neal Fowler

Regret is a terrible thing, isn’t it?

It eats away at us with the constant thought of what might have been—the “if onlys” and the “what ifs.”

What might have happened? Where would I be? What could have been?

Such insidious thoughts have a way of burrowing so deep into our psyche that they unconsciously inform how we live our lives.

I used to be like this, until a phone call changed how I live my life.

Back in May of 1999, my Dad called late one afternoon. It was not unusual, since we spoke weekly. This call was different though—I could hear the anxiety and urgency in his voice from the moment he started speaking.

I paid extra close attention, because we knew any day could be his last—nine months earlier he had been diagnosed with lung cancer and wasn’t expected to make it to summer.

He wanted to talk about his last wishes. Although we’d decided on this months earlier, it was apparent he was worried about it and needed his mind put at ease.

I did my best to soothe his concerns, and he seemed happy with my reassurances. We talked a bit more, and even though I could tell he didn’t want to get off the phone, I knew he couldn’t withstand much more conversation. He said he would let me go now.

I instinctively knew this was the last conversation I would have with him.

Several seconds passed without us saying a word. I wanted desperately to tell him I loved him—that he’d been a good father—but I was afraid. I didn’t have a clue how to do it. We just didn’t express our feelings in our family, in fact, we were taught to never express any emotion.

So I said nothing—and neither did he.

The next day, I was told Dad had passed the evening before. All at once I felt a sense of relief that he was no longer in pain—but also intense regret for what was left unsaid. That determined how I chose to live my life from that point on.

We all feel regret at one time or another, and sometimes the severity of a regret is more life-altering than others.

Maybe for you it was declining the dream job across the country for the safety of a familiar home, maybe you got behind the wheel after one too many drinks with dire consequences, or maybe you were afraid to wear your heart on our sleeve for fear you’d be rejected—and then it was too late.

I’ve noticed that most people who’ve had a regretful experience fall into one of two camps—they either have the “Big Regret” and continue to accumulate more regretful experiences, as they move through their lives because they are living in fear, or—they take that “Big Regret,” and use it to propel change in their lives.

I chose the latter, because let me tell you, my “Big Regret” was the most repugnant of experiences—there was zero chance of a do-over for me.

On the other end of the stick of that negative experience was the positive—did I want to get to the end of my life and look back on the decisions I’d made with a bucketful of regrets? And, if not, what was I prepared to do about it? The choice was an easy one.

I’ve gone over that conversation with Dad 1,000 times in my head, since that afternoon—rewriting the ending each time.

How might it have gone differently? What else would have been said, if one of us was brave enough to take the first step?

You know—the “what-if’s” and “if only’s.”

But there is no point in second guessing the regretful decision after the fact. All we can ever do is move forward, with our hindsight discoveries and authentic intentions, to make a better decision the next time.

So when you get to that precipice where you find yourself asking, “Do I dare?”

Just make the leap—go for it, take that chance—jump in with your whole heart.

You’re the only one who gets to choose if you live your life with regrets—or not.

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Relephant:

How to Live Without Regrets.

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Author: Stacey Broder

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Flickr/Neal Fowler

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About Stacey Broder

Stacey Broder is a holistic life coach, writer, IET practitioner and recovering perfectionist who spends her days showing women how to design a life they love on their own terms. After graduating with a PhD from the School of Hard Knocks, and finding her own way, she took a leap of faith and quit her job to do what came most naturally her to—showing others how to create their own happiness. In the midst of running her practice, she indulges in afternoon naps, chases after her dogs and daydreams about returning to the Mediterranean, where she runs yearly retreats. She lives in the space of curiosity and wonder between what is and what could be, eagerly anticipating what adventures are next in store.

Connect with her on Facebook, TwitterPinterest or her website.

Comments

4 Responses to “He Died Before I could Tell Him I Loved Him.”

  1. Tracy says:

    I’m in my fifties, and I have done or tried to do as many of the things I dreamed of because I never wanted to end my life with “what if” hanging over my head. Despite that I still have regrets, some big, some small. It’s unavoidable, I think.

  2. Stacey Broder says:

    I agree, it's a lofty challenge…but so worth it, I've found!

  3. Lisa Balthaser says:

    OMG! Bawled my eyes out. This is my exact story last year. It is still very raw to me. My father was an alcoholic and we did not have a close relationship. I also grew up in a home where we just did not express ourselves. I had just gotten to a point in my life where I forgave my dad for not being there for me and wanted to work to rebuild our relationship. That point came only one month before I learned he had stage 4 lung cancer. We never got the chance to repair our relationship because I could not and would not bring up all the pain my dad caused me when he was dying right before my eyes. All I could do was be there for him as best I could. I put my whole life on hold and my business, which suffered greatly. I felt that if we did not have the chance to ever have the relationship we could have and should have had, the least I could do was show him that he mattered to me and that I loved him. In the end, while he was in the hospital for the last time before he passed, he did thank me for being there for him and told me he was surprised that I was. The thing is we both knew our relationship needed repair, but the time was too late. There were SO MANY words left unsaid that really needed to be said.

    Reading this brought back all the pain and memories. I mention this not because it is a bad thing, but because it is a reminder that we must live our lives with purpose and in a way that does not create regret. I will be writing a book on my life and experience with an alcoholic father. I started it and only got as far as the first chapter so far since I also had the daunting task of rebuilding my business. I did publish the poem on my blog so far. It was the poem that was read at my dad's funeral, A Goodbye to Dad.

    While I was reading this, I was in tears over and over. Thank you so much for this reminder not to live with more regrets. now, I must get to work on making that happen!

  4. Stacey Broder says:

    Thank you so much for sharing that, Lisa. I'm sorry you had to go through that – our stories parallel one another almost to the letter! For me, looking back, despite the situation, I see that he gave me a great gift. Were it not for that conversation and my seeing the importance of what I missed out on, who knows what choices my future self would have made without the benefit of that hindsight. I'm glad it was a good reminder to live on purpose. xo

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