I felt paralyzed when my mother uttered the words, “He died today.” My first reaction was to ask her if she was playing some cruel joke on me. In the moment, I couldn’t believe it, he was gone. I sometimes still don’t believe it. The day I lost my uncle, my best friend, and a father figure, I ran to my room and I cried. I cried until I fell asleep. And I didn’t cry because his life was over because I’m old enough to know that everyone eventually dies. I cried because of the immense guilt I felt.
I remember thinking: I could have done better, I should have done better.
I felt guilty because I was so consumed in the distractions of my own life that I didn’t call him as often as I should have, I didn’t visit him as often as I could have. And worst of all, I didn’t answer his phone calls, when he would call me. My excuse in the moment was that it was always bad timing. There was a class or a party to get ready for, or I was simply tired… there was always something I was occupied with.
This is because I always assumed there would be a tomorrow. That I could just mute the call and call back tomorrow. But what happens if all those tomorrows turn into weeks, then months and then one day he doesn’t call. Not because he doesn’t want to, but because he isn’t there anymore to pick up the phone and dial your number.
And looking back, I realize, we should stop the meaningless tasks we are doing for the people we love. For the people who trust us enough in this life to hold their hearts in our hands, fully knowing how destructive human beings can be.
So here I am, sitting in my dimly lit room. Wishing that I could go back in time. All I want is yesterday. One more day to call him and tell him that I love him. A chance to hear his laugh again and see his eyes crinkle when he smiled at me.
But it’s too late, I am too late.
And that’s when it hit me. The fact that no emotion affects us as strongly as regret does.
I can’t erase what I did. I can’t erase the fact that I did not speak or see my uncle, the man who loved me unconditionally, the last months of his life. And I regret that and some nights, my regret makes my heart feel like it’s suffocating.
But there is a reason why time travel doesn’t exist. It’s because you need to learn from your past and you do that by accepting it, forgiving yourself, and moving forward.
Now, I take the time out of my life to go visit my parents and friends as often as I can. I call them every night, even if it is just to exchange good nights or I love you’s. I call my sister and ask her about her life. And I go to bed with a lighter heart, knowing that I spent my day in contact with the ones I love. Ultimately, I forgave myself by realizing that every single person on this earth wishes they had more time with the people they loved once they’ve passed. I could have called my uncle every day and it still wouldn’t have felt like enough. So, I had to forgive myself in order to move forward.
In the end, the lesson I learned from losing someone I love is to make sure you make them feel loved when they are still with you. Try and fill every day surrounded by the ones you care about.
I once read that “You can never love someone as much as you can miss them,” but at least you can try. At least I can try.