“Mum, will you forgive me?”, asked the boy.
“You haven’t done anything wrong”, mum replied.
“Well, I haven’t been the best child. We used to fight all the time when I was growing up. I must have been the worst teenage boy any parent could have asked for”, he looked back in regret.
“No you were not, you were an absolutely beautiful boy. I’ve always appreciated how determined and independent you were, and I’m very proud of what you have become”, mum assured him.
“But what about the time when I was twenty plus and you were really upset when I left home to travel around the world?”
“I was just worried about you, little child. Any parent would be worried when their kids go wandering around the globe. It’s a dangerous world out there. I thought you’d be much safer if you stayed close to home. But I’m proud of you for your sense of exploration”, she said with a kind heart.
“And when I came back, I decided to go and study in one of the remote universities on the other side of the country. You wanted me to stay at home with you and dad, and save some money”.
“You needed your own space, I know that. It wasn’t easy for me to see you leaving our little nest, but with time I had to respect that you are a grown man, and you wanted to do it your own way, not your mum’s way”, she smiled.
“I knew you were happy when I got married, bought a house, had kids. I finally settled in… Were you proud of me then?”
“Of course I was, little baby. It’s one of the greatest joys in life to watch your own child starting their own family. I knew you will always put your children first, just like your parents did”.
“But then, a relocation offer from work came up all of a sudden and … well… we moved to another country”, he looked away as he recalled how much of a shock it was for his parents.
“Well, life sometimes gives you opportunities that are hard to reject. A couple of years overseas seemed to suit you and your young family”. There was no blame in her voice.
“Were you mad at me when those two years turned out to be much longer than originally planned?”. That was a rhetoric question, as the young man stopped counting the number of times he got asked when are they coming back home.
“I may have never mentioned it before, but while it was very hard for me being away from my grandchildren, I was pleased to see how happy you are, knowing that you are living your dream”, mum said with a heavy heart.
“Mum, you know how hard it was for me to live away from you and dad. I have gone through these emotions time and time again, thinking whether we should come back home. We really struggled finding the answer to ‘what is best for our kids’. Deciding to move overseas was an easy choice, but deciding to stay there was the toughest decision I have ever made”. Tears came to his eyes. “Are you still angry at me?”
“I was angry back then”, mum admitted hesitantly. “But eventually I realised how much you and your family are fortunate over there, so I was truly relieved and happy for you all”.
“Mum, when you were diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago, I promised I’ll come over as much as I can, and I did. But now it doesn’t feel like I did enough.” He looked away, trying to hide the tears. “Will you ever forgive me for not being there for you?”
“You are here right now, my child. That’s all I care about. Life is busy and I wouldn’t want you or the kids to remember me like that, lying here lifeless. It’s better if you focus on your own life – create more memories, because in the end this is all we have”. She held his hand as tight as she possibly could.
“Oh mother, I will live with guilt and regret for the rest of my life – I should have come back earlier – a week, a month, a year. I should have been here when you were diagnosed, I should have lived much closer. I could have done much more…”. He stared at the gray walls of the palliative care unit, as the tears came rolling down his cheeks. He wasn’t trying to hide it anymore.
“Remember this, sweetheart, I am not angry with you, I’m just glad you are here now. All I wanted was to see you for the last time before I go”. She smiled, and gracefully closed her eyes.