Throughout our lives, we find ourselves experiencing regret, often in spite of ourselves and even despite our best efforts.
Regret is a compelling emotion, for several reasons. First, unlike most other emotions, regret can be spawned by both the passive and the active: we can feel it due to something we said or did not say, actions we did or did not do, words or actions said or done but with the wrong inflection or timing, etc. So in a sense regret encompasses both the positive and the negative.
Yet what I find even more interesting is the fact that regret is experienced subsequent to a given event. It is an emotion that links that past to the present. And it can inform the future.
So regret carries a lot of power, which like all forms of power can be used for good or the opposite.
Since my father's passing a year and a half ago, I have felt more strongly than ever my tie to those who preceded me. Experiencing my father's absence constantly, I have been unexpectedly thrust into a new mode of living, one defined each moment by the fact that I now have to wait until Moshiach comes to speak to my father again, to hear his voice aloud again, and so on. Existing in this way, the time I did have with him has become magnified.
We all take our parents for granted to a degree. I say this because it is very difficult for any child to truly accept that one day our parents will no longer be with us in this world. And so, unable to completely acknowledge that fact consciously, our savouring of them while they are in this world is ever so slightly diminished.
Throughout my life, I always loved hearing my father tell stories of his family before they came to Canada. I remember one visit in particular as an adult where I spent an entire afternoon sitting with both of my parents just listening to him tell stories and asking questions. Since both of his parents had passed away before I was born, the only way I knew them was through these stories. But also, by hearing the stories I got to appreciate a different man than my father as I always knew him: my father as a boy in Germany, as a preteen fleeing the Nazis on the years-long journey to Canada, as a rambunctious teenager in Canada, as a young man before he me my mother.
Yet with all that knowledge, I never truly appreciated who and what my father was until now. I realize, in hindsight, that I did not appreciate the strong sense of yiddishkeit he instilled in me, the torahdik mindset he possessed and how it imbued all that he did. I did not acknowledge the truly exceptional person he was, in his own quiet way. Because as boisterous and Germanic as my father was on the surface, in the end he was always a man guided by the teachings he learned in the Mir back in Germany. Instead, it has only been since I began cherishing my memories of my father that he has come into sharp focus for me, only now that I have been granted a full view of him as a person, not just as my father.
The thing about regret is that we can either let it consume us or instruct us. I am happy to say that I have been fortunate enough to generally experience regret in the latter way, B'H'. Especially as of late. Feeling that sense of the past and consequently feeling its connection through me to both the present and the future, I try to honour my father every day by being the type of daughter he will continue to be proud of. And, by remembering that I perhaps took him for granted a bit too often, I cherish every conversation I have with my mother that much more. I try and learn from my previous mistakes, which I made at his expense.
So Daddy, I hope that I continue to remember that instead of being consumed by a sense of should of, would of, could of, I will continue to instead exemplify a sense of I should, I will, I can. Just like you taught me through your example.