“If only” must be among the saddest words spoken – pre-fixing the regrets in our life. For me “if only” is mostly about things left undone, acts of omission and not acts of commission.
I had a big “if only” when my God-mother died unexpectedly and I had not gone to visit her. It was on a”To do” list that never got done. And so all I could do at the end was write her a letter and place it in her coffin. A half hour of time that should have been slotted into my life earlier “if only” I had been better organised. It was procrastination that kept me from visiting.
So did I learn to avoid regrets by overcoming procrastination? The honest answer is No. My Dad used to say “time waits for no one” and “procrastination is the thief of time”. But I have not heeded his words and have a few regrets, especially when death intervened to take loved ones away. I still have a lifetime of learning ahead of me.
Correction … not a lifetime. That implies many days, even years but there is no guarantee. I may not be here tomorrow.
My cousin Mervyn who was with us on Tuesday is no more with us. He left this life on Sunday, five days after we met at a family gathering. He was looking low that day but I did not engage him in conversation. There were so many to talk to and he has been quiet since his recent illness. However later in the evening I commented that he was looking troubled: an Aunt explained he on the way in and was worrying about it. We tried to reassure him to put it from his mind but it was clearly difficult for him. When we left together at the end of the evening I noticed him fumbling with his car key so I offered to drive his car. He gladly agreed as the accident had made him nervous. I drove him and his wife home with my sister and cousin following in my vehicle. Concerned that he looked very poorly, I spoke some words of comfort and assurance and left.
Four days passed. On the fifth he was called to his Maker. He had been unwell about six months previously with dialysis. Worrying about the accident probably caused the heart attack that ended his life.
Do I have any regrets of omission? I am not sure. I am happy I was given the grace to be perceptive when he was fumbling with the keys. I am not always so alert but somehow that day, I noticed. For that isolated, very small grace filled opportunity that came my way, I shall always be grateful, although I regret that I did not realise he was tired; sick and tired and to have to sort out the accident on the morrow was too much of an effort. But I did not have the perception to see that. Nor did I move beyond that my minuscule act to show compassion and caring, to call back and check if all was OK. My cousin did. She and her mum visited on Friday.
I? I went about my daily life.
And so I do have an “if only” but it is about me …and life. If only I “remember to remember” what I value in life, to care about others, to keep them in mind, to lend a helping hand whenever and wherever I can; to be less engrossed in my life and be more mindful of the lives of others, for life is like thistledown …. gone with a puff of the wind. Gone for ever, without return.
If only I “remember to remember” that tomorrow, indeed the next hour, is not guaranteed, to me or anyone else I know.
Isn’t that what The Master taught us?
If only I can “remember to remember” His words, then maybe I might live such that when I come to the end of my journey I don’t have any regrets, any “if only’s”.