Change One Thing

February 11, 2009

desktop-1One thing that I have worked very hard at in my life is to have no regrets. So, maybe I have a few, but they are not really regrets because I wouldn’t change them even if I could. I believe firmly that if you change one thing, you change everything.

For example, my sister applied to Skidmore College and was accepted, but only starting the second semester when they knew someone would have dropped out and a place would open up. How simple it would have been for her to stay at American University after one semester. Close to home, a co-ed campus (Skidmore was all female) with the new friends she’d made, new experiences and studies, etc. But she chose to walk away from that and go to Skidmore and start over in the middle of Freshman Year. That meant trying to break into an established social setting, start over with everything new. As a result of that one decision, she met her husband-to-be and got married and divorced and to this day, she and her children live with the effects of that.

But because of that decision and the events of her relationship, I met his sister, Anne, and was so incredibly fortunate to spend 40 years of my life with her. My poor Hope and her children. Lucky me.

Change just one little thing, and you change everything.

In the 1990’s, a family business failed, like many others at that time, and we went bankrupt. It was a bleak and frightening time for our whole family. Why wouldn’t I change that, if I could?

Like all of us, Anne had fears. Her greatest was what happened – losing our money and not having a secure and safe place to live. She was terrified in every sense of the word. And she discovered a toughness, a resilience, an ability that she never knew she had. She stood up to her worst nightmare and beat her way through it with determination and hard work, with love and loyalty for her family, with an intelligence and competence that surprised her, and it made her a more confident and self-sufficient person.

But then she died after a long illness. Wouldn’t I change that?


When you think about dying, what do you hope for? To simply toddle off to bed one night and never wake up, right? That’s the best possible end to a life, in my opinion. But a close second is to die awake, in complete bliss, unaware of the inevitable end. In essence, toddling off to peace and quiet and love and security and comfort and never waking up. That’s what Anne did, that was the beauty of her so-rare disease. She was happy and unaware of what was happening to her because her neurological disease made her that way. Were I to change that, she could easily (and likely) have eventually suffered a long and painful and sad and horrifying death by cancer or some other cause. Or I might have died first, leaving her alone and devastated. Why would I risk that?

Yes, I would love to have spent more time with her, to grow old with her and to watch her celebrate our life every day, but I couldn’t. I consider myself very fortunate to have had the time we had. I wouldn’t change a thing.


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