Day 3: Something you have to forgive yourself for
This is still so raw, and sad. A year ago today, the woman who worked for my grandmother and, later, my mother, the woman who held me in her arms when I was just weeks old, the woman who I have always known and who has always referred to me as her beautiful angel baby, lost her only son. I was devastated for my friend, holding her in my arms as her body rocked and struggled beneath the weight of her grief, driving her to take flowers to his grave and supporting her as she walked.
At the time I was focused with purpose, so focused on where I belonged. And that was with my friend and her partner, Maria. Maria had Ovarian Cancer and it was brutally advancing its attack. In October, she learned that the last effort treatment was not working. There were no more trials available to her, no more options. She accepted the news with brave heart. As the days progressed into weeks, Maria's body (though never her mind or sense of humor) began to weaken and her basic needs increased. I spent many days with Maria, many nights with her visiting family, many hours by the firepit outside with my friend.
During this time, a dear friend of my family, my Aunt Suzie, passed away. Aunt Suzie was the last of a magnificent group of four couples, including my parents, who were lifelong friends. I was shattered to lose this last of the greats ladies from that group of eight I had known all of my life.
A few weeks before Thanksgiving, Maria needed a wheelchair to get around her house. She was becoming weaker, sleeping more, experiencing more discomfort and pain. It was excruciating to witness. But it was deeply rewarding to be able to provide for her, to cook an egg when she was hungry or to place a blanket on her lap and take her out for a walk through her neighborhood. Or to read to her from her favorite childood books.
I went out of town for Thanksgiving weekend. With my nephew, my friend and room mate, and the person I was dating. The weekend was wonderful, blissful, filled with walks on the beach, a little too much wine, warm fires in the fireplace, an over-the-top Thanksgiving dinner, and lots of laughter and comfort.
Two things happened when I returned: On Sunday night, a good friend of mine and former colleague, died at too young an age of a heart attack. He was alone in his apartment. His family came into town from out of state and were literally so shattered with their grief and so unfamiliar with Houston, that they had no idea where to begin for a service. So, I planned a Memorial Service, from music to slide presentation, to program. It was the last gift I could give to him, by helping his parents who meant so much to him.
The second thing that happened is the person I was seeing took her mother to the doctor for a routine test on the Monday morning after Thanksgiving. The test was botched and her mother was moved to the hospital, suddenly gravely ill. Her daughter and son sat in bedside vigil, trading places while the other would return home, feed the dogs, change clothese and, if possible, grab a bit of sleep before returning. This went on for weeks and weeks.
But Maria's life was also weakening, and her needs increasing. I was starting to spend nights there. Although the person I was seeing and I would talk on the phone daily, giving and receiving updates on her mother and Maria, I only saw her a couple of times, once for lunch, once at Maria's memorial service and once in January when we not too joyfully exchanged Christmas gifts.
If you've managed to read this far down in the post, then right here is where I'm going to get to the point. I have had to forgive myself for not being there for my friend while her mother was in the hospital fighting for her life, and when her mother passed away. It cannot be argued because the reasons don't matter. I simply was not there. It wasn't a decision that I consciously made, choosing one over another, but something inside me told me where I needed to be, where I could make the most difference. I knew where I belonged, and that was by Maria's side, by my friend's side. I wasn't conflicted but I did feel terrible, to have two people who meant so much to me need me at the same time, and to only be there for one.
I tell myself that I was exhausted, that I'd had too much death and witnessed too much pain and suffering. And that is true but not reason. When Maria passed in December, there was relief that she was no longer in pain but mixed with the grief and relief, there was heated a rise of anger than she was so young at the time of her death. And that anger opened up the doors to a flood of grief that I had pushed deep down in me in order to function, from losing Paul, Aunt Suzy and Randy, from watching the bright light of Maria's life fade out. And then I discovered something. I was empty, exhausted, completely filled with sadness, loss and helplessness, and I needed to heal, I needed to retreat.
Can you be in two places in one time? No. Can you wish to be in two places? Yes.
For the first time in my life, I felt that I had nothing else to give. And in giving nothing, I deeply hurt someone I cared for very much. And that is what I've had to forgive of myself. I won't be so trite as to say that I had to forgive myself for being human, but in my forgiveness what I learned was to accept that I have limits, that we all do. And sometimes those limits keep us from doing what we want to do, what we should do, but we simply can not do.