We all do things that we regret, make mistakes, sometimes big ones that are hard to overcome. Recently, 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 hard and life changing time in their life.
It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve made a mistake, and won’t be the last, unfortunately, because we all do it. I apologized repeatedly, yet, unfortunately the relationship may already be lost. Why is it lost? Because it’s hard to get past when a close friend or family member isn’t there for you.
I know since 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 all 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, worst I had obtained short term memory loss from the blow to my head. 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. 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 my 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 “Aunt Wooter”, “Aunt Tina”, “Aunt Weezer” (who were really there for us) and my father-in-law and brother-in-law, 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 get angry too.
The 2002 accident took something much more valuable than just my physical movement or memory, it took my joy. Joy I’d had for years! I would hold in the tears, mostly, throughout the day, but as soon as the kids went to sleep I’d be up half the night crying. And I’d write in my journals, novels and poems.
I couldn’t understand how people who say they care for you could forget you. My kids couldn’t either. My daughter at one point said she really missed one family member a lot and I said well call, maybe you can go visit. But after a few let downs of that person not having the time, 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. (But I didn’t really feel that way; I just didn’t want my daughter to be as hurt as I was.) After Larry came home and some of the family and friends started reconnecting again, it made me and the kids hurt more in ways. We would talk out our feelings and pray.
…And that’s the hardest part to get through: the hurt and anger of abandonment.
When I had my second auto accident in 2011, a little under ten years later, (which was much more severe) I was determined, through any 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 was rock solid as usual and my sister was incredible, as usual.
My daughter was of course much older then and could see things for herself. In one example, a family member said she’d help with cleaning the house because she needed the money anyway; which was nice. We had to pay someone either way so better it be a family member we trusted, than a stranger. My daughter started to see things about this person that was hurting their relationship. The family member would say things like “My goodness Michelle, did you ever clean before? I got spider webs out of the corners of the ceiling that look like they’d been there for years.” Anyone who knows us knows we typically keep a tidy home, but in that moment I was so vulnerable emotionally that her comments really hurt me…and my daughter. Every time that person would say something else, Alexis would get increasingly angry and hurt, so much so, that Larry saw the damage could likely turn permanent if he didn’t stop it. So, he told the family member we thought we didn’t need her help anymore and hired a professional. When she found out she was a bit hurt, but we knew the damage could’ve been much worse in the long run had it gone on the way it was.
During the next few months I had several procedures for my back and 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. It was a daily record of who I spoke with or saw. Who came by and who didn’t. And it left me feeling very empty and angry.
I didn’t think I had really “learned” any great lessons or found any good that came out of my 2002 accident until possibly that moment, after my 2011 accident, sitting in bed because I could barely move and reading those journal passages. I learned it was easy to serve God when I had peace and joy; it was a decision I had to make daily when I didn’t.
I made a few decisions that day.
As I read that passage, 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 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, but it highlighted people in a negative way because of the hurt and anger. It was difficult, but I ripped out parts I wanted to keep for possible future blogs, redacted names, and 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 this 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 being 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 gaining new ones.
Now, currently I’m that person. The one who 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 understand. I can use a bunch of excuses, and did try at first, but the truth is… no excuse is good enough; I remember how it felt when people gave them to me. I went through it for over a year. I can’t change it. I can’t make them forgive us. And that relationship may very well be lost forever.
Hopefully, time will soften that hurt and one day they will forgive us.
Just like I had to forgive them, because they were some of the people who abandoned us. The ones who disappeared or made excuses during, not just one time, but many of the trials and hardships we faced. I can say it’s hypocritical of them to be angry after they did the very same to us through the years, but that would also make me a hypocrite for the fact that I am in their shoes now. I don’t want to be a hypocrite, I want to learn.
Now, this isn’t me saying what I unintentionally did was justified. I was wrong. So awfully wrong to forget them when they needed us the most. This is me saying I understand. I understand how time gets away from you. More importantly, I understand the feelings of hurt and abandonment.
This is me also saying I know I can’t carry around the baggage of guilt forever – I have to let it go at some point. I’m not quite ready to do that yet, because it’s still far too fresh of a wound for them; however I know one day I will. I’ll know that I can’t give them an arm or a leg to take back the pain, it’s out of my hands now one way or the other. At this point, I realize there isn’t anything I can do, except continue to pray for God to help them get through this time in their lives and to ease the hurt of abandonment they feel and help them forgive us one day.
And to remember that my true, deep complete forgiveness for them took time …nearly ten years.
“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