Tuesday, August 14, 2018

WEP: Change of Heart

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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Dear Tommy,

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.

Sincerely yours,

Word Count: 913


  1. Regrets haunt, and this one probably will until death. Very provocative. An excellent piece, as always!

    1. Thank you for the well wishes, I am feeling better, and enjoying the fact that I am writing again.

  2. Heartbreaking and lovely.
    Such a difficult choice to be faced with - and such painful regrets to live with.

  3. Reading this letter showed me how important it is to face our fears. Sometimes we get so hooked up on longevity that we forget that nothing on this earth is eternal. We let the precious days, months, or years that we can spend with someone slip through our fingers and learn too late that we said No to a precious experience that would change our lives forever.
    Thank you for a very poignant letter that touched my heart.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

  4. Wonderfully written. Heartbreaking story of regret. Well done.

  5. Regrets... They are always the worst. A sad and incredibly moving tale.
    My grandmother once said: it is better to do and regret it than not to do and regret it. The older I get the more I understand the wisdom of her words.

  6. Sure shows that we have to forget the fears and live for the time we have. Don't want such regrets and emotions twisting us up inside.

  7. That would be a blow for the young man at a time when he needed support but I could see this situation could be very scary for the woman as well. It's not like they were already married and this illness struck. It's different when you make a choice to get into what you know will be a very tough experience.It would be heartbreaking to feel you had to turn away though.

  8. Regrets are the hardest thing to face. We always wonder why we chose a certain fork in the road. But living with our decisions forces us to become stronger, and perhaps influences other decisions. A touching letter, well written.

  9. Hi LG - this is so well written and I could completely feel for them both ... so difficult to write - yet she did it, after he had died granted. As the others have said ... sometimes we need to do things - because if we don't we might come to regret it ... very very good - loved reading it for all the sadness evoked. Thank you - Hilary

  10. This felt so real and so sad to read. I could not imagine having to go through a situation like that. It would be such a tough decision to make.

  11. So realistic and so heart breaking. Admirable skill in making us empathise with both the characters, not just the narrator. Life can be so cruel - and you've captured that cruelty. Regrets are tough to live with.

  12. Wow, that is really sad. The last moments would've been awful but her regret is far worse.

  13. A tragic tale of regret, and a broken heart. Good Job.

  14. one should not face life alone
    yet so many of us face death alone
    Nice job in showing the regret

  15. What a fabulous take on the prompt. I'm being all critical and in my head here because this letter has made me so sad and evoked so many other emotions in me. What a read. Well done.

  16. LG, wonderful, just wonderful, but oh so sad. I can imagine a letter like this really happening. Often you see a couple getting married after devastating news like this, but this brings to the fore when one says no. Then, oh the regret. But your letter was so well crafted we do see both sides. We don't hate on her for making that decision, but we feel her regret when he dies.

    Such an inspirational CHANGE OF HEART. Well done, you!


  17. How terribly sad. I can't help thinking of the response letter from the grave, and what he might have to say about what happened. Did he forgive her before he died? Or did he go to the grave heartbroken and full of bitterness?

  18. Oh, that's awful. That permanent regret at not having been brave and strong enough. I hope there's a chance of redemption!

  19. What a reflection of life choices and regrets. So many ways to have a change of heart, but this is probably the most emotionally painful. Great piece. Wonderful.

  20. I felt every bit of Natalie's tug-of-war emotions.
    A great piece that made me really sad.
    Well written!

  21. Every word works and hurts, especially if you have seen this happen. You have caught the mixed emotions of the pain, the wrong decisions, the temporary convictions, the anguish and fear, and the regrets that always remain. Sadly, I had a friend that died of a brain tumor but married her partner on her deathbed, only for her mother to disown him. And my ex was unable to cope with my chronic illness. Some of us are so frail it can hurt - and you captured that.

  22. Well, she made a selfish decision, as I believe that old saying, "it's better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all." Our consequences catch up with us, but by then it's usually too late to fix the damage. A sad but very well written letter. Well done.

  23. A very moving take on regret and how things could have been different. Like others have said, I can't imagine having to make such a decision, but it's clearly not easy. Even if she said no, it's plain that she felt a lot for this man.

  24. Really deep.
    You know, I've read dozens of stories like this from the other side-- where the dying person breaks up with the healthy one. I do believe this is the first I've read along these emotional lines from this point of view.
    (Yes, my own entry mentioned a healthy person leaving a sick person, but it wasn't the same emotion or viewpoint.)

    Very interesting. And such range! I usually find humor on your blog. You're "Tom Hanks-ing" the writing, aren't you?

  25. What a difficult decision. You did a great job of capturing the pain and the regret, but also what made making such a difficult decision necessary.