Stumbling Toward the Light

"We are closest to God in the darkness, stumbling along blindly" -- Madeleine L'Engle

A collection of thoughts and messages I wrote after my daughter died May 17, 2000. Primarily this blog is concerned with grief, bereavement, the death of a child, hope, courage and a tough faith journey.

Location: Kansas, United States

Husband, father of four, friend, dog owner, owned by a cat, Episcopalian, last liberal Republican left in the U.S.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Guilt and Regret

There are many things regarding Rachel's life and death that I regret: walks not taken, a concert missed, a bad day at work that spilled into me yelling at her for no reason... Regrets. I can look back and feel a pang now and then or shed a tear, but I know that these are things that are forgiven. I have forgiven myself for my own humanness as her father.

Right after Rachel died I had a series of terrible "self-beatdowns" regarding issues such as the insecticide I used in the basement (which might have a link to the form of leukemia she had), the fact that I didn't see possible signs of leukemia before she was diagnosed and some just plain silly things that I totally blew out of proportion. This was guilt. I had stood before the judge (myself) and jury (myself cloned 12 times), found myself guilty and thrown myself into a dark hole. This, for me, was guilt.

Guilt is an ugly, capped, steely cup that forever holds the misdeeds, real or perceived, that I have committed. The festering brew of misery within it has no means of escape. It's only added to by new guilt that I pour into it.

Regret, to me, is like a battered old metal garden watering can. It takes the pain in knowing that I have made mistakes... some terrible. It lets me hold these feelings for a while (to ponder them), but in the end Love (for my child and for myself) allows me to pour them out. Regret waters a garden of new possibilities within me. I can be a better person because I have learned from what I have done that was not right or good. Old regrets can resurface and pour back into the watering can. That's ok because Love is always there to tip the can over and pour those regrets back out.

I am guilty of many things I have said, done and thought in my life. But if my judge and jury is Love, the sentence will always be commuted to regret, not guilt. Just before she died Rachel told me as I was crying, "It's OK, Daddy. I know you tried your best." What greater or more powerful judge did I have than her.