It's time for another Write . . . Edit . . . Publish Challenge! This month the theme is "Change of Heart." Denise Covey and Yolanda Renee have made this challenge possible, along with great work from Nilanjana Bose and Olga Godim. Unfortunately Yolanda has not been well as of late, and I'd like to wish her the best.
I decided to write a letter this time, and while it turned out a tad more sad than I'd originally planned, I hope you all enjoy reading it.
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I’m writing this with a heavy heart. The burden of regret is one of the worst to bear, I think. I can’t help but look back at my past decisions and wonder how my life might have been different. If I had accepted your proposal and officially entwined my life with yours, I would undoubtedly be somewhere else entirely. I keep thinking about that unknown place and wondering if I would have found joy and comfort there.
I need to say this. Keeping this truth hidden away inside has been tearing me apart. I wanted to say yes. I wanted nothing more than to be your partner in life. It’s a big commitment, but I longed to make it more than anyone could ever know. I only turned you down because I was afraid.
I knew you would never hurt me on purpose. I never once imagined you would cheat on me or belittle me. That’s was never you, was it Tommy? When I think of you, I remember you as the peacemaker. You’d rather say a kind word than escalate an argument. You’d rather talk through a problem than shout about it. It took me a little while to get used to this. My home growing up was anything but tranquil. In time I came to love your gentle nature, and I wanted to live that life you offered to share with me.
No, you never would have harmed me intentionally, but there was one way you were going to inevitably break my heart. You were going to die, and while death inevitably parts all lovers, they generally have the hope of spending many happy decades together. That’s what I thought we might have when we first fell in love. We both thought as much, didn’t we?
The cancer diagnosis threw both of us for a loop. I’ll never forget the look on your face when you told me the news. You sank to the ground, devastation etched into every line of your face. The world was falling apart around us both. It wasn’t just the word “cancer” that left us reeling. That world alone is frightening enough. The words “inoperable” and “terminal” were far worse. I think I could have dealt with it all if there were better odds. I’d like to think I could have held your hand through all the treatments if I had a possible future to focus on and bolster me when the times got tough.
When you asked me to marry you, I pictured what that would entail. Marrying you would have meant standing by your side and watching you waste away. The prospect of watching you die slowly and in agony scared me more than anything ever had before. At that time in my life, I didn’t think I could face it. I couldn’t imagine that I might have that kind of strength inside of me.
This sounds like a weak excuse. You didn’t have a choice in whether you faced this reality, did you? The only choice you had the freedom to make was how you coped with this. And you tried to make the best of it. You chose to embrace the love you had and focus on the positive things the world still had to offer you. You asked me to become your wife and make your last days that much brighter.
To this day, I don’t know how I managed to stand there and say no with such calm. I didn’t even avert my eyes. I was too stunned by the gravity of it all and the finality of my decision.
You were hurt, but you still looked me in the eye and told me you understood, that you couldn’t blame me for my choice. I saw how much you wanted to mean it, and maybe you even did mean it a little. The pain I inflicted on you with my rejection likely wouldn’t allow you to forgive me completely in that moment, and I can’t blame you for that. As wonderful as you always were, you were still a human man with human emotions. You had every reason to resent me for walking away. I know I do.
My change of heart came too late, and my pain is of my own making. I should have taken that risk. I see now that I lost you the moment I said no, and it took your death for me to confront that fact. It aches to know that you are no longer part of this world, and I wonder how you felt about me after I walked out of your life. If I had come back and begged for forgiveness, would you have even wanted me there? I guess I’ll never know the answer.
Here I am, reading this in front of the black marble gravestone your mother selected for you. There’s a lovely forest scene etched into it, and it reminds me of that picnic we took for our last anniversary. That was a great day, wasn’t it? The cancer was already growing inside you, already killing you, but neither of us knew it yet. I’d give anything to go back to that place.
I’ll leave this letter with you, and I’ll carry my regret home with me. Hopefully that regret won’t tarnish the happy memories I have of our time together. It would be a tragedy to lose those, too.
I’ll always love you.
Word Count: 913