New Year's Resolutions - Reflections After The Loss of a Loved One
Karen M. Gibson
New Year’s Day is the traditional time to reflect upon the past year, the highs and the lows, and make resolutions to abide by which will, ideally, improve our lives. Usually these resolutions last about as long as the New Year’s vacation – quickly forgotten as we resume our usual busy schedules.
I have never been one to take New Year’s resolutions very seriously. I have always preferred making changes as necessary, on a day to day basis, rather than once a year. This year was no different for me. I did not make any New Year’s resolutions on January 1, 2001; I made mine weeks before.
In the last issue (See note below) I wrote about the gift of time that home education can allow us to give to others. I mentioned our trip to New York due to my mother-in-law’s health and the time we were able to spend with her and other family members. Those weeks spent with my mother-in-law turned out to be the last we were to see her, as she passed away the Friday before Thanksgiving. While her death was not entirely unexpected, given the nature of her illness, we were unprepared for the swiftness of it. We thought we would have at least one last visit during Thanksgiving. Instead, on the day after Thanksgiving we attended her funeral.
With my grieving process just beginning, I am discovering there are some regrets I have, regrets which are causing me a great deal of pain and sadness. I knew my mother-in-law was very ill, but believed I would have one more opportunity to tell her some things I had left unspoken. As it turned out, there was not such an opportunity and now I am struggling with it. I am sure she knew I loved and admired her. But now I also know I should have told her. As it turned out, I told her friends and her family at her funeral.
I told them that her kindness and thoughtfulness helped me with the huge adjustments not only to life on the dairy but also to being a wife. She was never interfering and never once spoke of how I “ought to” do things. I have always just smiled when the mother-in-law topic comes up, knowing I had the world’s best.
I told them how she was always caring, listening, and anticipating others needs above her own. And how her example enabled me to become a better mother and will always continue to be a guiding light for me.
And I told them how it has been the companionship she and I enjoyed together that I have missed the most since moving away. And that it will continue to be her friendship I will miss for all time.
I realize that my regrets for having waited too long to say these things are something I must learn to live with, as I will never have another chance with Doris. But suddenly I am aware that there are many such people in my life – friends, family, children, even a husband – whom I take for granted they will always be there and that they know how important they are to me. But do they know? When is the last time I told them? Have I ever told them? Sure, I kiss and hug my kids each day and tell them I love them, but when is the last time I told them exactly why I love them? Why they are so special to me? And I certainly cannot remember the last time I expressed in words to my husband just how wonderful he is.
So this is my resolution for life, not just for New Year’s Day – to each day bestow at least one heartfelt expression of friendship and love to someone near and dear to me. And yes, there are times when this expression of affection is embarrassing. I’m not a demonstrative person. As the minister said of my mother-in-law at her funeral, she was a “self-contained person,” and so am I. But I want to rise above the fear of expression that I have. I want to show my children that there are worse things in the world than to be embarrassed by your emotions.
As I continue to work on fulfilling this resolution, I am already noticing a positive effect upon myself. My outlook on a day to day basis is a bit brighter. And as I look within myself for ways to express my feelings of affection and friendship, I am finding it easier to recognize the good attributes of others, rather than the not so good. I hope this effect will continue and possibly spill over to my family and friends. Wouldn’t that be a fitting tribute to my mother-in-law!
As always, until our next issue – unfurl your sails and ride the wind!
Copyright December 2000
Note: Originally published in January/February 2001 issue of HELM (Home Education Learning Magazine) in the regular column entitled "Reflections."