Two forks emerged in the rolling wood and the weary traveler sat upon a broken stump to consider his options. One way was canopied with thick arbors above and a narrow path below. While it looked pleasant, it was dark and uncertain. The other took an immediate turn and appeared to open into sunshine.
As he wiped the sweat from his brow, he studied the map given him when forced upon the journey. He knew there had been directions, but that was long ago and he had been under duress – so many voices, so much information. If truth be told, he had never in his life been one to listen well to others. This time he had tried, for the stakes were high. There was life and death in the balance so reckless he couldn’t be.
The map told him to follow the path through the woods. Yet he wasn’t certain. Was that the right way? He pondered until he heard the ravenous bark of the hounds. His pursuers were nearly upon him so he pulled himself up and followed the dark path under the trees.
The way was no easy fare. It brought roots and rocks that jumped up and pull his legs from beneath and branches that clubbed him from above. Every time he reached a lazy downhill stroll, a climb ensued – each hill steeper than the last until he found himself at the edge of a perilous cliff where the howling wind at his back threatened to push him into an endless abyss below.
Still he pushed, and fought, and kept moving; though he was uncertain and afraid.
And when he reached the other side having gone the way he was instructed, he hoped with all his might that his journey was ended. But the poor fool’s hopes were dashed as he held his lifeless babe in his arms.
Looking back over where he had come, he didn’t see mountain, cliff, or forest. He saw nothing but a long, murky valley that seemed to stretch on forever.
The Lonely Valley of Whatifs.
What if he had started sooner? What if he had taken a different path? What if he had pushed harder? Would the outcome have changed?
Every journey is marked by decisions – both easy and hard. The difficult decisions are made using the best information you have. In a perfect world, we could make those choices and move on. But that’s rarely the way life happens, is it?
We all enter The Valley.
For those whose path lead to sunny shores, the valley is short. Whatifs are only fleeting thoughts of perils that could have been.
But if, due to difficulties beyond your control or decisions you’ve made, your life has become less than you wanted, the Valley of Whatif stretches on like an endless bog. The earth gives way to dark mud that sucks us down further with every step. Early it covers only our shoes until we get weary and our feet grow heavy. Another step pulls us in to our knees, then slowly we are chest deep and sinking fast.
Tomorrow marks three years since we said goodbye to Kylie and I taste the mud. It cakes my ears and my nose until I hear nothing and can only smell its earthy, rich scent. I smell it like I remember the smell of the freshly dug earth on the hill where we laid her to rest. Regret is inescapable.
My head knows we did everything we could, but my heart will second guess until that day the earth covers me. The wind brings whispers of wounding questions. What if we had discovered the cancer sooner? What if we had chosen a different treatment? What if I had pushed harder or educated myself more? Would she be here if… If… IF…
There are no answers. The Lonely Valley of Whatif never yields answers and the even world’s finest mud tastes awful.
If you’re tasting mud of regret over something past like me, spit it out. I realize this is very cavalier advice whilst I still chew on my own mud. I intend to spit it out… someday. I would be lying if I said today was the day. Or especially tomorrow. It may take a thousand tomorrows and I doubt I’ll ever be able to remove the taste completely. But I refuse to allow the filthy swill of the past completely sully the tastes of the future.
I know Kylie wouldn’t want that.
20 thoughts on “The Lonely Valley of Whatifs”
Sigh…. the what ifs. Hugs to you.
Sigh… Thanks. We made it this year!
Mark I appreciate and relate to this visual. I miss your Kylie with you today. I wish she was still here.
Me too. Thank you.
Hello Mark, I’m sorry and I know that place of regret only too well myself. So many ‘what if’s’ have swamped my thoughts & drowned my energies for 18 years now. I also believe that Tamzin & Kylie would certainly not want us to feel such pain as this constant questioning of ‘what if’.
I guess all that’s changed in these 18 years without my son Tamzin, is that I am feeling more tired & missing him more (hard to believe possible, I know) Also more used to living with my feelings of regret, so that’s the only reason they might fade – from my exhaustion ! Certainly not from winning any mental battle for survival or even self forgiveness. No, just tired & worn out by the fragile shell of our acceptance.
Thankyou for your writings Mark, it is sadly comforting to be reminded of your beautiful little Kylie. I always Love hearing her voice singing ‘a whole new world’ with you that night 3 long long years ago. So rich, hearing her sweet (spirit strong) singing in the dark there with you, her devoted always there, Dad. Never ever forgetting her beautiful ‘mom’ ….always always always our babies they’ll be.
And our Love for our precious ones, just grows anyway, no need for ‘what ifs’ because we were there.
Over here in Australia I will be thinking of your vibrant loving treasure, your Kylie. Sending you Love to your family, Kriss 🌏❤️🌎
Blessings all the way to Australia, Kriss. It’s a hard road we walk.
Chew away, if needed. There’re nutrients in that mud…
No timetable needed but your own, and your family is right there with you!.
Great point. I forgot about the nutrients!!!
Thank you for your blog. It’s been three years, Jan 9 since we lost our lovely girl at 14 yrs old. Feb 13, tomorrow would be her birthday this her 18th and I haven’t seen her for the last 3. She was a sprite, a brace performer with her violin and her dance. She was the graceful warrior. Sounds familiar I’ll bet because I hear my daughters voice when you talk about Kylie. Kylie sounds amazing. I send you love and best wishes to your family on this sad day. Also I just heard this one and I like it a lot. Children are the only treasure we can take to heaven. We have even more to look forward to. Peace
Oh, I’m sorry for your loss, Elsie. Birthdays are so hard too. They remind us what should have been. We made it to the 14th though.
yes, you are right. she would want you to live life again, when you are ready, until then spit out the mud as you need to –
I’m spitting… it just gets stuck sometimes.
Thinking of you and your family today. Hugs to all of you.
Thank you, Heather.
You and your family have been so much in my thoughts the past days, my date was the 9th and I spent a good time of it and the days before reading “Missing Kylie”, again, because it gives me comfort.
I can only hope and pray that you and your family will get through, I know you’re not going to be ok, but I hope that you can get through it without more heartbreak than you have to.
I will remember Kylie, her memory is with me.
That makes me happy to know her memory is with you. Thank you.
Anniversaries are so very hard. Thinking of you and your family, Mark.
Thanks Lynette. They really are.
Mark, your blog continues to fill my heart with many emotions! I despise the What Ifs of life that creep into our minds.
Your Kylie was a beautiful child taken too soon from your family. Cancer asks no permission, it just robs. Thinking of you & your family!
Thank you, Margy. Cancer is a rabid thief…