Though most of the guilt is gone--we were both humans, parent and child--we both made mistakes, often with the best intentions (but bad execution and ignorance tripping us up, both of us)--and I don't berate myself for what I can't now change, the regret doesn't die. Her life was cut short by chronic renal failure, which may or may not have resulted from a number of serious diseases she'd had earlier in her life, in the pre-antibiotic and pre-immunization days for the diseaes she caught. Polio, malaria, brucellosis, measles, then mumps as an adult, then the renal failure. She long outlived the doctor who'd told her she'd die in six months...by decades. But it got her at last, though the family tree includes women who lived well into their 90s.
So on this anniversary of her death, I think of sitting beside her, our son busy drawing with crayons in the living room while I sat by the bed. I remember the slant of light--the same slant of light we have today, and almost the same weather. But this morning I got up early to get ready for church, and this morning at the same hour as her death, I was knitting in the parish hall before choir rehearsal for the second service. At the time the funeral home's car arrived to pick up her body, I was singing the offertory anthem. And we were driving home at the time I was greeting visitors who had come to make their call on us. Everything today--including now, as evening comes on--has a corresponding memory of that day. What happened in those hours on previous anniversaries I can't recall...only that day, and this day. Tomorrow, after this many years, has blurred the day after her death. Gradually, over the years, the memory trigger shrank to just this one day. But I suspect that this one will stick, bright and clear, to the end of my own mental clarity. And that's fine with me.