I have been slowly making my way through Sophie's Choice by William Styron. Slowly because of the number of new words to look up, define and write in my personal lexicon and also, to savor the gorgeous prose, just like one would deliberately slow down to enjoy a delicious dessert.
Sophie, the hauntingly beautiful protagonist is consumed by guilt. The writer-narrator Stingo is witness and describes it as:
Guilt. Hateful guilt. Guilt, corrosive as brine. Like typhoid, one can harbor for a lifetime the toxin of guilt.In another part, Stingo personifies his lust in a way that puts the reader in the body of a virile twenty-two year old male virgin, completely obsessed with sex.
Combining these two ideas made me think of how I would personify my feelings, namely Guilt and Regret. This is what I wrote in my journal:
Guilt and Regret - like two peas in a pod; siamese twins, joined at the hip. When one shows up, the other comes by default. I wonder if there will be any point in my grief journey when Guilt will part for good, taking up residence with another poor soul; when I will be able to say clearly and soberly that I did all that I knew to do, that Josh did this to himself and therefore, I am not at fault? I wonder.
There are moments now when these absolving thoughts float through my head but always, either softly in the background, or loudly in my ears, Guilt says, "No! You should've known, seeing it coming, been on your guard, questioned him, talked to him......prevented his death."
Then Regret chimes in with her soliloquy which repeats like a broken record, unable to get out of the verbal rut: "what if...if only... would've....could've...should've..."
I endure their mental flogging as just punishment for not being a good mother, for although I tried to be, I was not attentive enough, not what he needed me to be and now my Josh is dead - ergo, my fault.
I've come to accept Guilt and Regret's tenacious hold for it is the price of motherhood. Moms protect. Moms guard. Moms are willing to die in order to save their children. Moms are not supposed to outlive their precious offspring. Good moms do not have a child who takes their own life.
So deep down, I believe Guilt and Regret words:
I should've been different.
I should've been better.
I should've seen something - a sign - even when no one else did.
I should've known and so been able to prevent his death.
And what it really comes down to is this most painful thought:
If Josh had a different mom, maybe he would be alive.