Rachel’s granddad passed away recently. His name was Cliff Davis, and he almost made it to the ripe old age of 91. He lived with Grandma on the second level of Rachel’s parents’ home, and I loved seeing both of them whenever we went up there to visit. I felt like I got to know Granddad Davis over the last few years better than even my own grandparents – who lived in India, rarely visited, and have all passed away.
Granddad Davis was in hospice for about six weeks before the Lord gently ushered him to heaven in his sleep, and we were fortunate to spend about a month with him and the rest of Rachel’s family in rural southwest Virginia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though it was a very difficult time of caretaking, it was also a very special time because of the many opportunities to just sit next to his bed and chat with him.
I greatly appreciated the moments when it was just me and him because I could convey our love for him and also ask meaningful questions about his life. I got to hear stories from his past about his friends and travels and life experiences, and I believe he enjoyed sharing them as much as I enjoyed hearing them. One afternoon while we were sitting together, I asked him if he had any regrets about his life. I thought a person on their deathbed would have had a lot of time to self-reflect and come to terms with the decisions they’ve made, and that hearing his response might be really instructive for me.
I thought a person on their deathbed would have had a lot of time to self-reflect and come to terms with the decisions they’ve made, and that hearing his response might be really instructive for me.
He thought about my question for a handful of seconds, and then said that two things come to mind.
First, he really wished he would have treated Grandma better when he was younger. He didn’t give me any specifics, but it made me think of the early years of my own marriage. I have been married to Rachel for five years now, and early on I (unintentionally) tried to squeeze her into my (personally refined and carefully curated) daily routine and life and world. I just wanted to keep doing what I was doing, and keep living how I was living, and now just be able to enjoy the additional benefits of having a wife along for the ride.
I have written all about this in detail but basically, I didn’t know I needed to let go of my old life and build a new life with her. I imagined that maybe Granddad struggled with the same thing. Maybe all guys do.
The second regret that Granddad mentioned involved him going on walks with Grandma. This was supposed to be a leisurely, peaceful, happy time to connect and chat with each other, but he would instead choose to walk faster, ahead of her. I am not sure if he got annoyed that she wouldn’t or couldn’t keep up with him, or if he just didn’t care. But he told me that in retrospect, he regretted that choice very much.
This also struck a chord with me because…I’ve done the very same thing! Multiple times! I even blogged about it in detail a few years ago when God opened my eyes to such foolishness. I had wanted to get a workout in, and make my walk more of a productive endeavor, and totally missed that the point was to spend quality time with my wife. Just like Granddad missed the point as well.
We’re so dumb. What is wrong with us men!?
I think the biggest takeaway for me was as follows: on my deathbed, my biggest regrets will probably involve the choices I make that hurt my family. Granddad didn’t bring up any regrets related to work, finances, health and fitness, or recreation and travel. He may have had some regrets in those areas, but they weren’t top of mind, and they didn’t plague him at the very end of his life. What did was how he treated his wife.
I think the biggest takeaway for me was as follows: on my deathbed, my biggest regrets will probably involve the choices I make that hurt my family.
I feel like so far, I have been quick to apologize when I hurt Rachel’s feelings somehow. And so far, we have never let any misunderstanding or disagreement fester but have dealt with it quickly – typically within the same day (we tend to sort out heavy stuff during our pillow talk times at night). Can we keep this up, so we don’t have any regrets? I hope so. I believe so. It will just take a lot of intentionality, and a constant awareness of how our words and actions might negatively affect the other.
I also want to constantly remember that Rachel is a gift to me. “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.” Maybe it’s easier for me than for other people to think that way, because I waited a really, really, long time for her to come along. But maybe over time I too will start to take her for granted, because that is just what tends to happen by default.
I have to fight against the default.
Otherwise, I am going to majorly regret it.
Life batters a person physically, emotionally, and psychologically in numerous painful ways. Much of it takes a tremendous toll, but much of it also can’t be controlled. It just happens. It stinks, but that’s how life is.
What can be controlled, though, is how I treat my loved ones. Here again, I think it comes back to intentionality. Intentionality by definition takes so much effort and, frankly, is quite exhausting. But we are super intentional when it comes to other areas of our life. Shouldn’t it most heavily be applied to those we’ve committed to love, honor, and cherish forever?
Intentionality by definition takes so much effort and, frankly, is absolutely exhausting. But we are super intentional when it comes to other areas of our life. Shouldn’t it most heavily be applied to those we’ve committed to love, honor, and cherish forever?
I already miss Granddad Davis a lot. We’re going to see Rachel’s family again later this summer, and he won’t be there for me to hug and chat with. But one of the ways I can keep Granddad’s memory alive is by applying the lessons he taught me. And when I see him in heaven one day down the road, it will make my heart very happy when he tells me how proud he was of how I treated Rachel.
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