Thursday, February 16, 2012
The first time I took notice of it was in my mom. After we lost my sister my mother would talk about how she feels guilty about her death. She would make statements such as "if we wouldn't have gone out of town", and I could see her continually blaming herself for a situation that she had absolutely no control over. My sister had a seizure, didn't recover normally, and the EMT put her on a respirator. That respirator caused her to develop pneumonia, and she eventually had to be taken off the respirator. It was a horrible series of events which lead to her leaving this earth long before any of us were ready to let her go. But in all honesty my mom was in no way to blame. She had done nothing wrong, and living her life to go visit her newborn grandson is certainly not a mistake which she made.
Now I sit here thinking about my own father, who died of lung cancer. Yes I too had an element of guilt related to his death. I was my dad's caregiver, and a few weeks before he died I went on a weekend trip. Before the trip my dad was independent, sharp, and doing very well. However when I returned he seemed frail, and a bit more blurry. The decline he made over the 4 days I was gone was noticeable. It was what appeared to be the beginning of the end. In 3 weeks time he passed away. On several occasions I felt myself regretting that trip, or feeling selfish for going away with my husband for business. Guilt knocked on my door, and I opened up and let it in.
With the passing of my late husband I am pleased to say I have never opened the door when guilt came knocking. I had excellent counseling through our tough times which taught me that I am only responsible for my own actions. I am not responsible for someone else's response to them. I knew I had heard from God to take the steps I had taken, and when he died I was able to say I do not blame myself. But many people I greeted in the funeral home had the guilt. Even to this day I have discussions with people who loved and cared about them and can see the guilt they carry. "If only I had known, I could have helped. He would have listened to me." "I was gonna talk to him about his problems, if I had maybe it would have made a difference." From the outside I see the heavy weight they carry, and although I have reassured them that it would not have made a difference, that people who knew were helping him and it wasn't enough, they continue to carry it.
God is not a God of death, nor a God of guilt. There is another spiritual force at work in our world, and he is the one that brings death. Yet I can see him at work, causing innocent mourners to carry the guilt of a death they had nothing to do with. John 10:10 says "the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I [Jesus] have come that you might have life." Guilt is part of the thief's plan. He steals, he kills, and then he continues... to destroy. The guilt will destroy you.