From my Tender Mercies Journal ~ May 21, 2009 ~ Thursday
Yesterday I cried, on and off, and ended my day with a tearful prayer. I expressed to Heavenly Father my need to connect with Josh as well as the continued hurt I feel from regrets of not being a better mom. As I often do, I asked Heavenly Father to let Josh know how much I love and miss him, and I also requested that Josh know how sorry I am for the times I could have been more kind and patient. Humbly, I told Heavenly Father that although He has given me so many tender mercies, that I needed one more.
This morning, I thought again about two regrets that seem to haunt me. The Wednesday night before Josh died, I nagged him about taking out the garbages and when he didn't move on it fast enough, I declared a privilege lost, one that didn't match the 'crime.' I also chastized him on Friday when he resisted helping with yardwork. I remember asking ~ after he had apologized ~ "When are you going to change?!" I regret not "showing forth an increase of love". As all of this came to mind again this morning, I said (outloud, I believe), "Is this going to cause me pain, every week for the rest of my life?" I was talking to Heavenly Father. Why couldn't I let it go? Why couldn't I forgive myself? No answer came. I cried, blew my nose, got up and went on with my day.
This is a tender mercies journal, so you can expect the Lord heard and answered me, as He always does. It was while I was teaching piano lessons. Demi's mom needed to know when her last payment was, as she hadn't notated it on an assignment sheet, which is very unlike her. So, I got out my 5-year-old dayplanner, that I now use only as a ledger. Then, when Meredith asked me about my summer teaching schedule, I reached for paper on the piano that I could use to track my students availability. But, there wasn't anything, not even a blank assignment sheet. I noticed the dayplanner, still at my feet, so I thumbed through it. I saw a folded piece of paper with a short grocery list. So, I opened it, thinking, 'this will do'. To my utter amazement, there was a typed message. It was from Josh. It said:
I love you so much. I know we can be together forever. I am so sorry I haven't been too helpful.
I love u,
I can't remember receiving this typed letter from Josh. He must have just finished 6th grade though, because that's when he and Nate pulled that big typewriter out of the school dumpster.
I like that it says "Dear Mother" and not just "Mom". I like that it says "I love you so much" and not just, "I love you." What made him, at that age, and in that situation write, "I know we can be together forever." And then his apology.
Is Josh so much like me? Has he prayed that I will know of his regrets, in hopes I'll forgive him of any weaknesses? Is he having a hard time forgiving himself? I find myself thinking, How silly! He was only a boy, not even finished growing up. Who could expect him to be perfect? Look at all the good he accomplished! Look at all the joy he brought into people's lives! Then I hear Josh say, "Mom, you're still a child, a child of God. No one expects you to be perfect. Look at all the good you've done, for me. I love you."
I can't help thinking, if there's one more lesson I can teach Josh, it will be how to forgive oneself. So I prayed. Heavenly Father, please take away this pain, the pain that comes from the regret I have of not being a better parent to Josh." And I cried, and I blew my nose, and I got up to finish my day, trusting more in the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ.
May 24, 2009 ~ Sunday
The Lord gave me a benediction, so to speak, to the tender mercy I received on Thursday. In Sacrament meeting, Cassandra S. gave a talk. She read a quote that was a gift of grace to me:
"We should also realize that feelings of guilt accompany grief ~ regret for things said and done. Guilt is useful only if it prompts us to repent. Though we may not be able to 'make it up' to someone who has left mortality, we can change our attitudes and plan for better eternal relationships."
Within the first week or two after Josh passed away, Genie Godfrey paid me a visit. She, like a few other friends, can do more than sympathize. I remember she held my hands and told me to think about how wonderful it will be to finish raising Josh during the millenium. I commented agreeably that the world will certainly be a better place. I could see in Genie's countenance that I was missing a main point. She tried again, "Think about what a better mother you will be to him." Understanding dawned. I knew even then that waking up to find Josh's spirit gone would provide me with better parenting tutelage than all my previous years as a mother. Now that a year has passed, I'm encouraged. I strive to be kinder, more patient, more attentive, more prayerful, and more grateful.
Cassandra's talk included the encouragement to 'plan for better eternal relationships'. I plan to do more than plan. I plan to improve my eternal relationships right now, every day. I have been lifted above the burden of guilt and am being held up in the realms of faith, hope, and charity. Thank you Heavenly Father for one more tender mercy.