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Regret Free Living

A reader writes:

“My mom died from a massive stroke and heart attack. She had heart disease, so we knew it was just a matter of time, but she was only 64 yrs. old! She was such a big presence in my family.

I wish I could have visited with her one last time. We spoke on the phone often but that's not the same as seeing someone in person. I miss her terribly. Tomorrow would have been her birthday.”

Our friend gives us all a good wake up call. While we still have our friends and family with us, don’t let things slide. Stay in touch.

Our Reader did that, keeping in contact with her Mom. Yes, she’d give just about anything for one more hug, laugh, time together. That is a symptom of grief, and it won’t go away, thought it will get easier with time. But notice she did NOT say “I wish I had talked to her more often,” or “I wish we hadn’t had that argument.” Our friend doesn’t have REGRETS, she is grieving. She did it right.

Of all the beauty and tradition of Judaism, the High Holy Days are given the most attention. During that period, custom dictates that each person take time to make amends with those on less than good terms. There is no assignation of guilt, rather an attempt to make things better. Wipe the slate clean, and start over with good intentions. Agree to peaceably disagree, in some cases. Or at least let a person know that while you cannot maintain a relationship at this time, you wish them well, and the door is open should things change.

This is the foundation of Christianity’s confession and forgiveness, based on its Jewish heritage. But the true meaning and intention has largely been lost. The sacred texts of other world religions also speak to this process.

If you’re not too caught up in the commercialism of the current shopping season, take some time out. It’s easy to enjoy the company of those with whom we’re on good terms. Most people feel a bit of a sad twinge through it all, though. There is usually something we wish were different, could be better. Take time now to address this.

Take time now to address your regrets, while you still can. Doing this now prevents regrets from piling up in the future. It’s a good growing edge for all of us, since none of us is perfect. By addressing your regrets, you’ll learn to avoid them in the future, and that’s a very good thing.

Please note that the word “easy” does not appear here. It is a difficult, humbling thing to do. It makes us better humans. It’s a good example and lesson to younger people in our lives. If the younger person is the one you’ve offended, doing this could literally save a life. Save a life!

Yes, making amends is gut wrenching, uncomfortable, difficult, scary and embarrassing.

It’s priceless.

If you start doing this now, you may find a whole new meaning to the Christmas Season when it starts December 24, after this shopping season is finally over.

If you start this now, the new year may look quite different.

If you start this now, your next visits to Temple, Church or Mosque may have new meaning. Sacred Texts may be heard in a whole new way.

So, how do you start?

First, accept that you may have to do some things you are not prone to do. You will have to step outside your comfort zone.

If you’re still reading, thank you.

A good first task would be to make a list. Who are the people with whom you need to make amends? If you write it down, it won’t be constantly on your mind. A list will help insure you don’t miss anyone.

In between those calls, get in the practice of keeping in touch with people. Sure, a handwritten note or phone call is most coveted. But for now, let’s make full use of technology at hand.

In your word processor, write one long paragraph about you, your family, job, anything to catch folks up on what’s new (or not) with you. Don’t be afraid to be honest if you’ve been caught up in the current economic dilemma. Save the paragraph to your documents. Copy the paragraph.

Go to your email contacts list. Choose one address at a time. Insert the pre-written paragraph. Add a few personal comments and questions for the person to whom you are writing. End by inviting them to keep in touch. Make sure your contact information appears at the bottom of your email. Send! Do at least one a day. Two or three on weekends. In no time at all, you’ll be through your contacts list.

When they write back, reply within the week. It only has to be short and sweet, but you’re keeping in touch! If you’re thinking this gets to be too time consuming, balance that thought against how you’d feel if that person weren’t around next week. Maybe what IS taking up so much of your time needs some rethinking?

Live each day as though it’s your last. One day, you’ll be correct. But by keeping in touch, by making amends, you will leave your friends family with few regrets where you are concerned. You will leave them with

Shalom.

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