Feeling regret and guilt from actions or words we’ve said that have hurt others is painful. Usually, we all have a chance to redeem ourselves with a sincere apology. What about the feeling of regret and guilt that comes from words we never got a chance to say to a loved one? It took Rita 62 years to realize the miracle of the present moment and finally wake to life. In this part of her story, she shares her experience and hopes to make us realize that we are all blessed with this miracle.
It was supposed to have been a 3 months vacation. At 24 years old, I had never traveled outside my country, Chile. Going to Germany for my brother’s wedding was like a dream! Sure, I was excited about the wedding, but I couldn’t wait to be introduced to a whole new world.
There was just so much to see, all the museums, all the other cities, all the opportunities. 3 months wasn’t enough to do it all. I extended my stay to 1 year, then one more year. Soon, it had been 5 years since I first arrived. By now, I had met a man and fallen in love. He asked me to marry him and I never bought my return ticket back to Chile.
Three years after we married, I went back to Chile on a winter vacation with my husband. He immediately fell in love with the country. He couldn’t get enough of the landscape and the climate in the north of Chile. The village of Vicuna was sunny, warm and dry all year round. We returned every winter after that visit. Every time, he would talk about the peacefulness and positive energy he felt from the mountains.
“Rita”, he would say, “I no longer feel stress in my neck and the pain in my spine just disappeared. I feel connected and in touch with myself here.”
After 30 years, close to our retirement, he said the words that had my world come to end, “I want to buy a home here in Vicuna, this is where I want to live for my retirement.” My blood went cold, how can I possibly live in this village? There is nothing. Nothing to do, no greenery around and it is surrounded by dried mountains.
I worked so hard for the life I had in Germany; my house, the big city with all its conveniences. Now, in my golden years, I was faced with my worst nightmare; giving up the ‘good’ life I had in Germany to live an unprivileged lifestyle. But my husband’s mind was made up. I was stuck. I mean, he was my husband, I had to follow him.
We returned the following year, bought a piece of land, hired an architect and construction began shortly after. We went back to Germany during the construction and planned to move there the following year.
During this time, my husband began experiencing a loss of control of his bladder. After undergoing a series of tests, he was diagnosed with advanced cancer of the spinal cord.
Of course, I should have been devastated but, his positive reaction strengthened my hope that he would fight it and get better.
“We are not going to stop the construction. By the time I recuperate from the surgery, they will have the first floor completed and we’ll be able to move in.”
I believed him.
After the surgery, he started the radiation treatments. A few weeks turned into months. His condition got worse. He was being fed through a tube and was not able to speak. Being by his side, watching my husband deteriorate was horrifying. He was the foundation of my life, the person I looked up to and would be with forever. I just could not find the courage to accept that he might be dying.
One day, he looked deep in my eyes in a way he had never done before. He was not able to speak but, his eyes said it all,
“I will never get up and leave this hospital bed.”
He knew he would never get to see his dream of living in Vicuna become a reality. This place, this hospital room would be the last thing he would experience.
That night, I kept feeling that look in his eyes deep inside me. For the first time, I opened myself to accept that as much as I didn’t want to lose him, it was inevitable. I just let myself go.
I started crying and cried uncontrollably all night. It felt so good that I couldn’t stop myself until I could cry no more.
The next day, I felt a weight that I had been carrying in the pit of my stomach disappear. I couldn’t remember the last time I cried. I never knew that crying and shedding all those tears could feel cleansing, heal my heart and allow a powerful strength to come over me.
There was so much I still wanted to tell him. Things he didn’t know because I thought he already knew and things I believed I still had so much more time to tell him. In all the years we were together, I always thought it was never the right time. I was too busy with working or taking care of the house. Although, I didn’t get much sleep the night before, for the first time ever, I had fully woken up.
Being able to be with my husband, totally and entirely in every moment, with no distractions woke up a part of me that had been asleep for many years. He had a board on which to write since he was no longer able to speak.
I understood more about him with just a few words he scribbled on that board, by looking deep in his eyes and by the touch of his hand than any conversation we ever had in the past.
I told him how much I loved him. Something I hadn’t done in years because I figured it was understood. I let him know that although there were times when I got angry and would ignore him for a few days, my love for him grew stronger. It hurt me when I ignored him. I loved his company but, my stubbornness got in my way. I told him I was sorry for all the times I let my pride stop me from telling him I was sorry. He gently squeezed my hand and I felt his love run through me.
When he was transferred to the palliative care, I was doing all the talking. He communicated by the squeeze of his hand in mine.
One winter morning, the sun was shining bright. Sunny days are extremely rare in Germany during the winter. He kept looking out the window, trying to tell me something. I remembered how much he loves sunny days. I called out to the nurse,
“Please, can you help me take my husband out on the balcony for a while? My husband wants to feel the sun.”
The nurse helped me take him out for the first time in almost a year and a half. It was the most beautiful, peaceful time we spent together.
It had been four days since we sat out on the balcony, enjoying each other’s company and admiring the view. I held his hand, and did not feel the squeeze of his hand. I told the nurse, “It is the first time he doesn’t squeeze my hand.”
She looked at me and replied, “He is ready to let go.”
My husband’s death was my awakening! It’s the hardest thing to watch someone you love, for a year and half fight this painful disease and accept that he was dying. But, they were the most beautiful moments we ever spent together.
I sometimes encounter people who are going through this difficult situation.
I always tell them, “Cry, it will cleanse your soul.”
Open your heart, allow happiness to enter. Be with your loved one, really be with them. It is very difficult to think about all the things you never said to them. You are filled with guilt and regret. This is your time, to wake up. You will find a new meaning in your life that will bring you a happiness you never thought possible. Saying the things you both have wanted to say for so long will bring you and your loved an inner peace.”
The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone – Harriet Beecher Stowe
Do you have words left unspoken because you feel a loved one already knows you love them? Maybe because you think they know how they make you feel. Take the time right now, express to a loved one (partner, parent, child or friend), how they bring joy to your life or anything you have been putting off on telling them. Experience the miracle of this special moment. Or share this story with someone special to you.
The next post will feature the 2nd part to Rita’s inspiring story of being faced to make a life changing decision after her husband’s death at 62 years old.