A few years ago I received a phone call that brought me to my knees. In fact, the news was so unbearable, so devastating that I crawled into the corner of my daughter’s closet, as if hiding there would make it go away.
The painful words I heard on the other end of the phone were words that my brain could not believe or understand. Even now, many years later, I find them incomprehensible.
As painful as it is to imagine, chances are I will receive another phone call like that in my lifetime.
In a post entitled, “I Have Today,” I wrote, “There are no guarantees that life will be as wonderful as it is today.” And I know that it is true.
I know I should prepare in some way for that heart-breaking day, and I have spent several years trying to figure out how.
But it is difficult, if not impossible, to fully appreciate each and every wonderful part of one’s life until that part is no longer there. You know the saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”
I thought about that a few weeks ago when my dear neighbor and friend walked into a dinner at our church wheeling her beautiful mother who is currently being rehabilitated for a stroke that impaired her ability to verbally communicate.
Shortly after the stroke, my tearful friend said, “It has been so hard not to be able to talk to my mom every day. We always talk every single day.”
And then she added something that I can’t seem to forget.
My friend explained, “Ever since I can remember, my mom has always said, ‘I love you today’ because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.”
I remember feeling a blanket of warmth surround me when my friend spoke those words. Here is a mother who had always told her daughter, “I love you today” just in case she was not able to say it the following day. And now this mother has lost (temporarily, I pray) her ability to say those words.
The first thought that came to my mind upon learning of this mother’s beautiful daily ritual was unexpected. My first thought was not one of sadness, nor one of disbelief. My very first thought was this: “No regrets. This extraordinary woman has no regrets.”
How? Because this incredibly wise and loving mother told her child every single day that she could, “I love you today.”
I was in awe. I was inspired. I was moved beyond words.
This mother had prepared….prepared for the heart-breaking day when you find yourself in the corner of a closet praying to God that you are dreaming and will soon wake up.
How do I prepare for tragedy? How do I prepare for devastating loss? How do I prepare for indescribable pain?
For me, this is one answer: No regrets.
Regret No More.
And now it is time for a list. Lists are concise. Lists are powerful. Lists are undeniable. Lists serve as concise, powerful and undeniable reminders.
I have made a list of regrets. Some are mine. Some are yours. Some have been gathered through an informal process in which I call, “Hands Free Mama Research.”
Worrying about opinions that didn’t matter
Accepting less love and respect than I deserve
Too often telling my children ‘not right now’ when they asked me to play
Not looking into the eyes of my children when they talked to me
Ruining a perfectly good day with a bad attitude
Complaining about everything while people who truly suffered complained about nothing
Taking my eyes off my child
Choosing my own needs over those who needed me
Thinking some people are less important than other people
Not saying, “I love you,” when I had the chance
Holding a grudge until it was too late.
Every self-depreciating name I called myself
Putting unrealistic pressure on myself
Never knowing God
Figuring out what really mattered after it was too late
Not listening enough and talking too much
Not saying “Thank you” more often
Not saying, “I’m sorry” more often
Ignoring that little voice in my head
Not following my dreams
Not turning off my phone in my car when my children were present
Ignoring God’s calling on my heart
Not making amends with those I had wronged
Not taking time to appreciate the unappreciated people who made my life easier
Neglecting to ask my parents their favorite memories while I still could
Not encouraging my children every chance I got
Not letting my children help me make dinner before they stopped asking
Neglecting to help that person when they were down and out
Shortening my lifespan by the choices I made
Rushing through life
Not getting out while I still could
Not embracing my body’s imperfections
Not taking the time to rejoice every single day
Worrying instead of praying
Not living in the moment
Pretending I was fully present when I really wasn’t
Failing to recognize and appreciate every single gift in my life
Taking my loved ones for granted
Taking my life for granted
What about you? What would your personal “I Regret” list look like? Make one today; no one has to see it but you. Then slowly begin crossing out a “regret” as you begin changing the way you live…with no regrets. Just imagine the overwhelming joy you will feel on the day when you can look at your list and see that it has dramatically shortened.
Before I conclude this post, I feel compelled to share with you what happened after I crawled out of my daughter’s closet on that fateful day.
I was given a gift.
I call it a gift because it has proven to be the most powerful “Regret Preventer” in my life.
A grief stricken father stood before a crowd of mourners who gathered to celebrate the short, yet extraordinary life of his four-month-old baby girl.
This father spoke with undeniable strength and steely resolve for the words he spoke contained a truth so painful that it drained the color from his face.
As he spoke these words, I held my breath. And at that moment, his reality was etched across my heart.
With remarkable composure he said, “Hug your child every day because you never know when it will be the last.”
Now is your chance. Take one regret and begin living life in such a way that allows you to wipe it off the list. Whether it is to make amends, stop belittling yourself or your child, love your body for everything it has endured, stop talking or texting on the phone when your children are present, or to put your life-long dream into motion…whatever that regret may be, begin erasing it today. You have the power to prepare for what may come. You have the power to Regret No More.
The meaning of those eight words is so incredible they bear repeating: You have the power to Regret No More.
And that, my friend, is an incredible gift.
Before you start writing your list of regrets, please press the “share” button below. Every one of us is living with the heavy burden of regret. Lighten someone’s load today; tell him or her the time has come to Regret No More.