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Two Kinds of Regret

Regrets: For what we did or did not do.

Lester taught me to make bannock and about regret.

Being the eldest in an indigenous family, Lester shared that he began cooking early at age five.

We saw each other weekly for years. He was a resident at an AIDS Hospice, and I volunteered. He shared his life, and I shared mine. Lester attended a residential school, a survivor. It shaped him profoundly, and he shared some of that pain. But Lester preferred entertaining me with stories of his life of crime. He was a thief. A proud stealer of moving vehicles: Cars, bikes, motorcycles, and horses. This was while teaching me to make Bannock. I said my final goodbye to Lester as he lay still on his bed, unresponsive.

He didn't regret stealing. I recall him pausing in the middle of a conversation. And with a faraway look and dreamy voice, saying, "I haven't stolen a car in a long time."

His life was filled with thrills, mistakes, joy, pain, and regret. Regret: for what he did and did not do.

Lester's Bannock

Four cups flower, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 1/2-2 cups of water, knead, make two dozen Palm size pieces of bannock. Consider adding berries, apples, and raisins. How about chocolate chips? Three ways to prepare: wrap around a stick and roast, deep fry or bake.

Regrets: For what she did or did not do.

This friend, a beautiful older lady, prayed for me, supported me, and loved me. She taught me that regret need not define me.

Her story: I am an old woman now, but my memory of him is bright. He was handsome, articulate, and outgoing. The sort of man any woman would be attracted to. But it wasn't any woman he wanted; it was me. The magic didn't end there. He had my ambitions, and his passion for God matched mine. We married. How could we not?

Our shared dream of doing social/spiritual work in Asia had us on a steamer going south, and soon, we were deep into our work. It was here that a disconcerting, no, tragic pattern emerged. His charismatic personality opened doors of opportunity, and soon, he was persuading anyone who would listen to partner with him in fantastic ventures.

Unfortunately, it was an illusion, actually a dark delusion. He had neither the finances nor the expertise to carry out his commitments. Debt and embittered relationships crushed us, forcing us to return to the continent, where I made excuses for him.

He heard North America was full of opportunities for someone with expertise. That and the embarrassment of more broken relationships propelled us across the ocean. For the next 15 years, we moved at least once a year and once each school season; my children had to make new friends because his charismatic, winning style and frenetic energy continued to build hope and crush it under never-to-be-realized promises. We fled from city to city, and I believed it would be different next time.

We were out of money and tired, and our family was suffering. I had had enough. I told him that I would not move again. I told him that he had to change his ways. He tried, he did, but he could not. We learned that a mental illness would prevent him from ever really changing. Still, I refused to move even though his destructive pattern continued: my need to stay put, over-road the shame. Some of my new friends suggested I leave him for my sake, my children's sake, and his sake.

For God's sake, why did I remain with him? I stayed for his sake. I remained for my sake. I remained for God's sake. I am old now, and he is the one who is gone - to be with God. While I have regrets, I am content with my choice to remain married.

What Youth deemed crystal, Age finds out, was dew. - - - - Robert Browning

Regrets: for what he did or did not do.

The teacher, author of Ecclesiastes, sums up his life in the last chapter, 12. He is looking back over a lifetime and recalling more than a few regrets for what he might have done, given another opportunity.

Regrets for what he did, and

Regrets for what he did not do.

If only,

Regrets for what I did and did not do.

I experienced a profound loss a few years ago. In my grief, I experienced regret.

" If only" is the precursor of many of my thoughts.

My spiritual director, Mark, guides me through the "If Only." Helping me reconcile what I did and did not do. He offers this: Regret is not a teacher but needs to be acknowledged and forgiven. Forgiveness is a process.

And how about this profoundly counterintuitive bit of wisdom?

"Make the most of your regrets...To regret deeply is to live afresh." Henry David Thoreau

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