On death, regret and emotional epiphanies

Several nights ago I was making the 45 minute drive from the rural outskirts of the city to my home in Detroit. While driving down a road as dark as pitch a sudden storm broke overhead. Gigantic raindrops pummeled my windshield, gusts of wind buffeted my car and the sole sources of illumination were the frequent lightning strikes that seemed to be mere feet from my car. Any normal person would have been terrified. I was only pensive.

The recent deaths of two family members and a colleague have caused me to think more than ever about death and the regrets of the living. So as I drove down that dark, stormy road I considered things I have never thought of before; or if I have reflected on them, it was in a cursory way.

For example, my mother will tell me that she loves me after every conversation, no matter how many times we’ve talked that day, or what the context of the conversation is. Even if we’re having one of our rare disagreements she will end with “I love you.” I once asked her why and she told me that she does it because “you never know what could happen.” I let it go at the time because it seemed like one of those emotional responses that I may never fully grasp, or agree with, but I’ve always remembered it.

And then I started thinking of that in terms of my beloved grandfather, who just died after suffering from dementia for too long. Before that insidious disease claimed his mind and everything that he was, did he have misgivings? Did he say everything he needed to say to his wife? His children and grandchildren? He was, by nature, a taciturn man and he seemed content with that in life. But did that change near the end? We can only guess at this point.

So as I drove, I thought; if my car gets hit by lightning, or my tire blows and I go careening off the side of the road to die in a fiery conflagration do I have any doubts about how I’ve treated those I love? I am not effusive in my emotions but I would like to think they know, under the veil of logic, and sardonic humor, how I truly feel. So in those brooding moments on the dark road I made a personal promise to make sure I at least make an effort to convey my true sentiments more.

I don’t know if I will be able to stick with my resolve in the long run. Perhaps, my memory of the thoughts I had on that gloomy road will fade, as the lightning faded into the distant background as a drove out of the storm. But, the least I can do is put forth the effort. That’s all any of us can do, right?

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