Beyond Regret: How My Daughter Helped Me to be Reborn
By Caroline Cosgrove
It has been 11 years since my mother died. After a 6 year battle with colon cancer, her fight came to a slow and painful end. She was only 52.
During her illness, I was there to help with my younger sisters, take her to doctor appointments, put meals on the table and pay the bills. I did what I had to do as her health care proxy. Instead of letting the doctors tell her, I took the task of telling her that her illness was progressing and I was the one she cursed and screamed at and then finally broke down and cried on.
I scheduled the appointment for the lawyers to meet her on her hospital bed to sign custody of my two younger sisters into my care. I agreed to, if the time came when she was no longer wanting to fight, to give her more than the prescribed dose of morphine. I signed the papers admitting her into hospice. I called my family to let them know that she took a turn for the worse. I watched as this once lively and strong, now withered away version of my mother – nothing but skin and bones, yet still full of pride – pulled the sheets up over her emaciated face and was gently placed onto the gurney and pulled into the ambulance.
Against the requests of my family, I made the decision to stop IV and forgo a feeding tube, which would only prolong the inevitable. I asked them to increase her morphine to make her more comfortable. I told her it was okay for her to go. For what felt like an eternity, I stayed by her bedside and the night that she died was the one night I fell asleep. I chose for her to die.
It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my own daughter that I realized what I did not do for my mother when she was alive.
I didn’t tell her that I loved her as she lay dying. I didn’t hold her hand and tell her that it would be okay, that we would be okay. I didn’t bite my lip and hold back nasty comments as she made sound effects when, on those few instances, she was actually able to taste food and not the bitter, metallic taste of chemo left in her mouth. I didn’t take her to the baseball game or take those family photos she asked for. I didn’t laugh with her when she wasn’t sick. And I never told her how much I still needed her.
When I was pregnant, I cried, oftentimes left unconsolable. I was finally allowing myself to mourn her death. I would have nightmares that she was alive again, but my family wouldn’t let me see her. I dreamed she was in hospice and I would fight to get through to her bedside so I could tell her everything – to tell her I loved her, that I wasn’t angry anymore, that I finally understood and forgave her, that I know she did the best she could and it really was good enough. And every time I would have this dream, something would keep me from getting to her until it was too late. Even in my dreams, I didn’t get the chance to tell her how much I truly loved her.
The birth of my daughter triggered a rebirth of myself. I swore to not take one moment with my daughter for granted. To not only love her unconditionally, but to make sure she felt it. To allow her to form her own opinions of people and situations based on her experiences instead of my own. I hold her hand when she asks for it, but let her walk on her own more often. I encourage her to be generous, empathetic and kind, though I know she would be all of these things even without my daily reminders.
Becoming a mother myself has taught me to not only be patient, but true to my word. Nothing good ever comes of rushing a sleepy child and there is no greater regret than breaking a promise to a 5-yr-old. I never let a day go by without telling my daughter how much I love her because I know the pain of regret and I never want to feel that again.
Remember to always tell those you love how much they mean to you. And don’t be afraid to show your vulnerability. Life is short and our time, so precious. Each day is a gift and a chance to start anew. Don’t waste a moment of it wishing or hoping you’d said or done something. Instead, say what you mean to those that mean something to you. Love with all you’ve got and make no excuses for showing each person you come across the same love and compassion you’d like to receive yourself.
Caroline Cosgrove is the founder of New Beginnings Health and Fitness Coaching, focusing on raising awareness of the health effects caused by the Standard American Diet. A Certified Holistic Health Coach and Online Fitness Coach, she educates her clients on the importance of creating a healthy, happy and balanced life, focused on exercise and nutrition. Her programs consist of both group and individual education, as well as children’s nutrition education.
Caroline is the mother of a healthy and happy 5-year-old girl, Sienna. Together, they are currently working to bring an organic vegetable garden to the school and to create a healthier school lunch program.
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