The Regretted Farewell:
This afternoon, my family and I will lay to rest my granny. I affectionately called her Big Granny. There was a time when she was actually kind of big. Not so much these last two years—her body withering and wasting away simply because of old age and dementia’s hold. I’ve never really thought to ask why we called her that. I just assumed it was because she was heavy at the time I was born.
Would you believe that my dad’s mother was referred to as my Little Granny? (Yes, she was the smaller of the two.)
And would you believe that my Little Granny’s mother was known to us all as Big Mama? (And she wasn’t big at all.)
Maybe it’s a southern thing–all these different names for one’s grandmother. It did help me keep them all straight in my little child-mind.
A week ago was New Year’s Eve. I had a little heart-to-heart with a friend much younger than I about regrets. I told her that I was relieved to say that I honestly had only one regret in my life. That’s a post for less emotional time. That’s a post that will have a happier tone because my plan is to rectify that regret—as best I can anyway.
So I now have two big regrets.
This one—it really hurts because I won’t be able to rectify it.
I can’t go back and have a do-over; spend more time with Big Granny. The only way to help myself with the guilt I feel right now is to pray my way through it and beg God to release me from it.
Guilt is a lot like fear and unforgiveness. It’ll steal your joy and eat away at you. It’ll make you into someone you don’t want to be and someone no one wants to be around. I should know because, though my big regrets in life are few, I blame myself and feel guilty for the smallest of things–even the things that aren’t within my control. How stupid is that!?!
Guilt is toxic. And it’s really good at making itself really big. It grows fast, like most things that are fed well. Plumps right up the more it eats! And I’ve been feeding it quite well, especially these past few days.
Right now, I feel so condemned and guilty because I hadn’t visited my Big Granny in a month. (I’m
embarrassed ashamed to type those words.) I tried to get her to come to Christmas dinner here, but she wouldn’t. With the hustle and bustle and previous arrangements, I sent a plate along with a gift for her with my mom. She was going to visit her later that day at the nearby nursing home.
Yes, I was busy, there’s no doubt. I had holiday commitments, obviously.
But I could’ve made the time.
I should’ve made the time.
I wish I would’ve made the time.
So why didn’t I?
I know why.
I know the real reason.
The reason is that I was hurt. And I didn’t want to hurt anymore. I was fearful of hurting.
Sure, she had been confused about things before. She had frequent episodes of telling others untruths about my parents and those around her, some of them horrible and unmentionable untruths. But in her mind they were real, very real. And to try to convince her otherwise would only upset her and make her defensive.
In her mind I was no longer a happily married former school teacher with my own business and handsome tween. And she’d forgotten that her dream was to see me become a successful writer.
This past year, in her memory, I had a failed marriage, an adult son, and I owned a daycare. But, at least, she still knew me. She still knew my name. She still loved seeing me. She still said I was her favorite.
She hadn’t forgotten ME—until that last visit.
The last time I visited her, she didn’t know me. The dementia and Alzheimer’s had finally taken me away from her. Me—her favorite!
She had confused me with another grandchild. I realized this when she kept asking me about nursing school. She shared with me a few of her nursing stories from her time at the VA. They were all sad stories, but I could tell how proud she was of being able to help the veterans through her work as a nurse.
She continued to ask me questions about my experience in nursing school—particulars that I didn’t know how to answer. I felt like I was telling her lies as I tried to “play along” for fear of upsetting her. The thing that hurt the most was when she became teary-eyed expressing how proud she was of me that I was going to be a nurse just like her.
As much as my Big Granny loved and cherished me and told me I was her favorite, I don’t ever remember her telling me she was proud of me. She probably did, but definitely not with the type of heartfelt conviction she displayed on this day. You could hear it in the tone of her voice. It was stronger than it had been in months. She spoke with so much emotion and pride that it was nearly palpable. She told me four times, back to back: “I am so proud of you. I am so proud of you. I am SO PROUD of you. I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!”
Only it wasn’t me she was proud of.
My heart shattered.
I was so hurt by it that it caused me to be afraid of what would happen the next time I visited.
I didn’t want to go back and pretend to be something I’m not. I didn’t want to go back and have to lie about things. I didn’t want to go back and have her not remember me again. I didn’t want to go back and find that I was no longer her favorite. I didn’t want to go back and possibly add to the bad memories.
I was selfish.
And so the hurried holidays were a good distraction and excuse for waiting to visit again.
Two mornings ago, I had a devotional and my son’s latest school picture in my purse ready to give to Big Granny when I visited later that day. She wouldn’t get it. She won’t be needing those.
Now, she will have a daily time of devotion at the feet of Jesus in her new home. My only comfort is that she was a born again believer and is in the company of the Holy One.
No more confusion. No more hurting. No more sorrow. No more sad stories. No more fear.
And so now my healing starts. And I will try hard to not think about the “what-ifs.” I will try to focus on the good times that she and I shared. And I will dig deep to find solace with God’s help. And I will try to focus on the good things, magnify them to make them larger than the bad things.
I’ve asked for forgiveness for my selfishness and for not being bold enough to stand against fear. Once again, I’ve allowed fear to rob me of something important. And so now I’ll work through my pain and the guilt. And He will comfort me and take away any condemnation. I don’t know how long it’ll take. All I know is that I have to break free of it if I’m going to move forward and if I’m going to be able to forgive myself. I have faith The Holy Spirit will help me through this.
Maybe you’re struggling with something similar today. Let’s pray together:
Father God, help me to let go of my guilt and fear. Thank You for forgiving me for my selfishness. Help me to forgive myself. I am so thankful that Your love for me is real and that Your mercy and grace are made new for me daily. May I cling to You and receive the solace and freedom only You can give. In Christ’s name, Amen.
Image courtesy of morguefile.com