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Four days ago my mother passed suddenly and unexpectedly. I wish I had known these five things before she died:
1. Try to live with no regrets
I felt deep pain following my mother’s passing, and I’m still feeling it—which surprises me. After all, she and I talked about her going to the next world many times over the years. We both thought we were prepared. As a Baha’i, I didn’t fear death for myself, or for her:
Then why couldn’t I release her to God with a joyful heart as I always expected? When I examined the source of my pain I realized it was not about my mother. I am completely confident that she has found limitless joy in a place of love and peace without measure. My trouble moving on now comes from my regrets about not giving her more of my time, attention and love. Though I am told this is normal, it still hurts:
Say, O My people! Show honour to your parents and pay homage to them. This will cause blessings to descend upon you from the clouds of the bounty of your Lord, the Exalted, the Great. – Baha’u’llah, from a tablet to an individual Baha'i.
2. Forgive, even if just for yourself
My heart carried memories, sometimes unconscious, of past hurts. When I had my own children, these memories emerged again. I talked to my mother about them and thought I had let them go for the most part. We became closer and as she aged I visited with her every day and tried to take good care of her. Though I worked hard on forgiveness, I still withheld a tiny piece of my heart that I felt she didn’t deserve. What I did was hurt myself as I denied the love within me to flow freely:
We have to remember, when we forgive we're not doing it just for the other person, we're doing it for our own good. When we hold on to unforgiveness and we live with grudges in our hearts, all we're doing is building walls of separation. - Joel Osteen
Forgiveness is the final form of love. - Reinhold Niebuhr
3. Let go of resentments
Without letting go of deeply buried resentments we cannot fully find our way to forgiveness. The truth is we all make mistakes and do the best we can, for whatever level of spiritual development we find ourselves in at the time. No one is perfect and the truth is, for the most part, the way people treat you has much more to do about who they are than who you are. Resentment also occupies valuable space in our hearts; space that could be filled with happier things:
The heart is like a garden. It can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love. What seeds will you plant there? – Gautama Buddha
4. Speak your truth
Now that my mother is gone, I will no longer have the opportunity to tell her what was hidden in my heart. I believe now that I could have lovingly shared my deepest buried feelings and resentments, and she would have tried to understand. I know that we will have this opportunity someday, but I wish I had made it happen in this world. By not wanting to rock the boat or cause confrontation or pain I denied us the opportunity to become even closer. Honesty that is kind and loving need not be hurtful, but can in fact bridge gaps which years of misunderstanding have created:
Beautify your tongues, O people, with truthfulness, and adorn your souls with the ornament of honesty. - Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 297.
Truthfulness is the foundation of all the virtues of the world of humanity. Without truthfulness progress and success in all of the worlds of God are impossible for a soul. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 4, p. 183.
5. Love now with your whole heart
Love now, with your whole heart, without thought to deserving or worthiness. Do this for your own sake, because the day may come when you will be able to do it no longer.
The minute my mother passed, all slights, great or small, completely vanished. This was a wonderful release, but at the same time an aching regret. Why had I not done this sooner, I wondered? Now I had this heart that was completely open and ready to love wholeheartedly, but she was gone. By holding back and not completely forgiving with every ounce of my being, I had stifled the love within me.
If one of you has been wounded in the heart by the words or deeds of another, during the past year, forgive him now; that in purity of heart and loving pardon, you may feast in happiness, and arise, renewed in spirit. – Abdu’l-Baha, Vignettes from the Life of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 49.
So I reflect tearfully this evening. I’m the one asking for forgiveness now; regretting any second that I wasn’t generous with my whole heart. With God’s great mercy I am reminded of His unfailing forgiveness. Thoughts flood my mind of the many times I did show my mother my love wholeheartedly, and those thoughts comfort me.
So I resolve there will be no time wasted again in resentments or judgements. From now on I will try to make my love unconditional to others regardless of how I am treated. Pure love is for giving without measure or deserving. This is how God loves us.
As I conclude this essay a great calm has come over my soul. I know that my mother has heard what is in my heart. From this moment on there will only be love and joy between us until we are reunited once again.
Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I will meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. - Rumi