I think sometimes you can carry around a lump of pain in your chest for so long that it becomes something that feels like a part of you. Something that you just learn to scoot around, ignoring and trying not to probe, until it becomes second nature and you almost forget it's there.
I was channel surfing on Friday night, through the newly expanded set of channels afforded me by my new digital set top box (aka The Miracle Machine), when I found a repeat of the Belinda Emmett episode of "Australian Story" on ABC2. Belinda died in November last year after a long struggle with breast and then secondary bone cancers, being first diagnosed in 1998 when only 24 years of age. You'd probably be hard pressed to find an Aussie who doesn't know the bare bones of her story, a fairly successful career in tv and music, and then her marriage to well known young Aussie comedian and chat show host Rove McManus. Over the years it became clear that things were not all well with her, as she looked increasingly thin and frail during public appearances.
Anyhoo. I had avoided watching the show for a whole raft of personal reasons, but primarily because having lost both my parents to cancer at a fairly young age I thought it would probably be far too close to home. Too likely to probe that tender place, the one so frequently avoided. As it turns out, I was glad to watch the show but, oh man, it slayed me. It certainly was close to home, and at one point I wept so hard I wasn't sure I was going to be able to stop.
I was doing ok until I got to the part where her father was talking about saying goodbye to her, and being with her as she passed. Which was an opportunity I missed with both of my parents, and I think that the pain of grief is maybe easier to live with than the pain of regret. Of lost opportunity.
The important thing I took away from this, and a lesson I'm thankful for being reminded of, is that it's best to say NOW the things you need to say, because one day you may miss the opportunity forever.