We all do things that we regret, make mistakes, sometimes big ones that are hard to overcome. Before I knew it, over two weeks had passed by and I had failed someone close to me by not being there for them during an extremely difficult and life-changing time in their life.
It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve made a mistake, and surely won’t be the last, because we all do it. I apologized repeatedly, yet, the relationship was already damaged.
Why was it so damaged? Because it’s hard to get past a close friend or family member not being there for you.
I know, I’ve been there.
In 2002, I was at the height of my career at the time and finally figuring out the perfect balance between work and family.
I was on top of the world.
Then suddenly, I had an auto accident, and it was gone. Not long after that, Larry was activated and deployed to Afghanistan. I was depressed and trying my best to fake it for my kids. We prayed a lot, but I didn’t feel joy or happiness like I had before. I was physically hurt, and worse, I had obtained short-term memory loss from the blow to my head I had sustained. Luckily, my sister and best friend noticed it rather quickly and started helping me.
We got a large dry erase board, and they hung it on the wall in the hallway. My sister bought me a journal notebook, and I kept it with me most of the time. I’d write down as much as I could to help me remember. I had sticky notes all over the house and my kids were lifesavers! They’d make me laugh, and we found ways to have fun without me exerting myself too much. When Larry would call, he’d ask J.I. when was the last time one family member or another had helped or visited, and Larry would get upset over the answer. One day J.I. told him it was almost like we lived in a country by ourselves, other than a couple of family members and neighbors that were there for us. I’d look back in my journal to the last time we’d seen anyone else’s name, and I guess after flipping so many days back, I’d gotten angry too.
That 2002 accident took something much more valuable than just my physical movement or short-term memory. It took my joy.
Joy I’d had for years!
I would hold back the tears, mostly, throughout the day, but as soon as the kids went to sleep, I was up half the night crying. I refused to take the pain medicine I was prescribed after the doctor told me that I processed medicine very slowly and could overdose if I wasn’t extremely careful. That scared me enough to refuse taking it altogether. So, I’d sit in bed and cry, write novels and poems, and also in my journal.
I couldn’t understand how some of the people who said they cared for us could forget us. My daughter at one point said she really missed one person a lot, and I told her to call, maybe she could go visit. But after a few let downs, I stopped letting her call, and she stopped asking.
I told her people don’t owe us their time. They have a life of their own to live, and that’s okay. Only, I didn’t really feel that way; I just didn’t want my daughter to be as hurt as I was.
I felt abandoned.
Now granted, not everyone abandoned us. We are blessed to have good people in our lives. Unfortunately, when you are going through a very difficult time, it’s hard to see many of them go on with their daily lives as if nothing had happened.
Did I expect the world to stop? No. However, I did expect it to miss us.
After Larry came home and some of the friends started reconnecting again, it made the kids and me hurt more in ways. We would talk out our feelings together and pray.
And that’s the hardest part to get through: the hurt and anger from the feelings of abandonment.
When I had a second auto accident in 2011, which was much more severe, I was determined, through all the tears, heartache, and pain that I wouldn’t lose my joy, no matter who scattered. No matter how bad it got.
And it got bad.
I cried more than I thought was physically possible. My kids seem to automatically jump into care mode, and for that I’m forever grateful. My husband and my sister were rock solid, as usual.
The following months after my second accident, and several procedures for my back, I asked Alexis to get me the old journals from my 2002 accident out from a box under my bed. I decided after days of reading it, that most of it could be trashed. I saved some parts because I’d already decided to start a blog and knew I could use them, but the majority of it was, unintentionally, just a record of wrongs.
A daily record of who I spoke with or saw after my first accident. Who came by and who didn’t. It was shocking that it still stirred feelings of hurt and anger. I’ve always thought I was really good at forgiving others, yet those feelings were still there.
I hadn’t thought I had really “learned” any great life lessons that came out of my 2002 accident until possibly that moment, after my 2011 accident, bedridden and reading those journal passages.
I saw how easy it was to serve God when I have peace and joy; also, how it was a choice I had to make daily when I didn’t.
I made a few decisions that day.
As I read, I knew in my heart keeping all those journals was wrong. Not just for me, for the kids and my husband also, and for their relationship with others too. More importantly, for my relationship with God.
I thought of 1 Corinthians 13:5. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Not only was most of that 2002 journal written from my hurt and anger, which can certainly skew a viewpoint, but it highlighted people in a negative way because of the hurt and anger.
It was difficult, but after ripping out parts I wanted to keep for possible future blogs, redacted names, Larry burned the rest.
I asked God to help me forgive people and remove the remnants of the hurt I still carried deep down even almost ten years later, that I didn’t even realize I had held onto.
And I felt free.
The next decision for that accident: I would focus on the good in every day, not the bad.
Not the people who didn’t visit, but the ones who did.
Not to be angry, instead try to understand how time can get away from people.
Not on the pain, but on the recovery.
Not on the loss of friends, but on the gaining of new ones.
Then, I found myself to be that person that let almost two weeks go by while an important person in our lives went through a very difficult time. I didn’t realize it had been that long, until I texted to check on them and they lashed out in anger. We tried calling after that, only they wouldn’t answer. I texted an apology and asked what I could do, but the response back came from hurt and abandonment, and I understood.
I could’ve used a bunch of excuses, and did try at first, but the truth was… no excuse is good enough to someone when they are going through such an awful time in their lives.
I remember how it felt when people gave them to me. I say often people may have had a reason to forget us, but it certainly, to me, was no excuse.
So, I finally left the excuses aside and earnestly apologized.
I also knew I couldn’t make them forgive us. No matter what I did, nothing can force forgiveness from another person.
As I had originally hoped it would, time has softened that hurt and slowly that relationship is being mended.
Learning means facing myself, facing my own misgivings, and changing what isn’t good. Which is often difficult to do.
I was wrong to let time slip away when someone we love needed us the most. Especially because I understand the feelings of hurt and abandonment.
I also know we, each of us, can’t carry around the baggage of guilt forever – we have to let it go at some point.
We each must realize there isn’t anything we can do to cover a wrong, except to apologize in earnest, while asking God to ease the hurt of abandonment and let love do the rest.
Understanding that we all go through some of the same issues and conflicts helps us see the other person’s side. It helps us to release whatever unforgiveness we may be holding on to and move forward. Perhaps, if we understand a bit more, we can work on our own perspective of situations, removing the hurt and anger that feeds it.
I know that I am imperfect. I want to try and learn through situations to be better, but I can only do that when I remove all the emotions that I cling to such as hurt and anger, that fuel excuses and perspectives. I imagine I’ll be working on that for years to come. We all will.
Fortunately, I know God will cover us through it all.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4: 32
“bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13