A regretful experience this week has my emotions bleeding into nearly every waking thought. By the end of this column, I’m hopeful the deep regret will begin to bloom into resolution.
Weekly readers of Wright Words know that my most recent novel, “The Seventeen Second Miracle,” is about the small things we do for one another every day that make a difference. It’s not the great, dramatic sacrifices of time and talent that define us. It’s those precious seconds or minutes when, without making excuses or checking our calendar, we perform a mini-miracle for someone.
I wish this column were about one of those miraculous experiences. Instead, it’s about the regret and pain of an opportunity missed.
A few days ago I had a classic opportunity to perform a Seventeen Second Miracle. It was precisely the kind of miracle espoused in the book with my name on the cover. It was just the kind of thing my late-father, who inspired the book, would have done. In fact, as I sit at my desk, I can close my eyes and see him doing exactly what I didn’t.
On the evening of Nov. 2, a local store hosted a book signing for me. The owners are dear friends; they are people I admire for their love of life, family and their Heavenly Father.
Nov. 2 was also Election Day across the United States, and there is no day more exciting for a political junkie like me. The book signing was scheduled to end around the time polls on the East Coast closed, and I was anxious to get home to watch the results pour in.
Then the storeowner’s phone rang.
The caller, a gentleman who was a friend of the owners and lived nearby, asked if I would consider stopping by his home after the event to meet his wife, Audrey. She’d long wanted to meet me but couldn’t attend. Would I be willing to make that happen? She was a big fan, he insisted, and had read all my novels.
Audrey had a lot of time to read, it turns out. Battling breast cancer does that to a person.
I looked at the clock, realized I was already running late leaving the event and asked if I could come by another time. The storeowner handed me the phone, and I arranged to visit her three days later.
The entire ride home I told my wife how bad I felt about not taking a few minutes to visit her, about being selfish with my time and over my desire to watch votes tallied on television. Not badly enough to turn the car around, mind you, just enough to give voice to the thoughts.
I stayed up until 1:00 a.m. eating snacks, drinking my favorite soda and watching a dozen cable news talking heads slowly announce results from Virginia to Alaska.
Two days later my friend called to say Audrey had been taken to the hospital, and our meeting in her living room would need to be rescheduled.
This morning I found out Audrey would never see her living room again.
There aren’t words in this language or any other to describe the remorse I feel at having passed up an opportunity to sit and chat with this woman. Not because it would have been some great honor for her, but because it would have been a great honor for me.
It was a miracle moment so custom made, an opportunity so ideally presented. It was what I’d spent months writing about and promoting in churches and schools across the country. It was the no-brainer opportunity of a lifetime to perform a small act of service without hesitating.
Except that I did hesitate.
And the opportunity was missed.
Later today I will send flowers and a note.
Later tonight I will sit on the edge of my bed and wonder.
Later this week I will attend Audrey’s viewing, pay my respects and apologize to her husband.
But for now, I hope this moment teaches me that pain can be a blessing if we allow it to change us for good. Regret can be useful, but only if it lingers for a moment, not a lifetime.
My hope for today and for many days to come is that I will be able to turn a deep regret into a resolution, a resolution to never pass those moments by again. It will be my simple way of honoring a woman I never got to meet.
Now, if you will excuse me, I have a book to read.