My fault. My guilt.

Guilt…

It follows no logic.  It knows nothing of common sense.  It cares not for forgiveness.  It persists even when we know we should set it aside.

Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt): Sometimes we’re on a collision course, and we just don’t know it. Whether it’s by accident or by design, there’s not a thing we can do about it. A woman in Paris was on her way to go shopping, but she had forgotten her coat – went back to get it. When she had gotten her coat, the phone had rung, so she’d stopped to answer it; talked for a couple of minutes. While the woman was on the phone, Daisy was rehearsing for a performance at the Paris Opera House. And while she was rehearsing, the woman, off the phone now, had gone outside to get a taxi. Now a taxi driver had dropped off a fare earlier and had stopped to get a cup of coffee. And all the while, Daisy was rehearsing. And this cab driver, who dropped off the earlier fare; who’d stopped to get the cup of coffee, had picked up the lady who was going to shopping, and had missed getting an earlier cab. The taxi had to stop for a man crossing the street, who had left for work five minutes later than he normally did, because he forgot to set off his alarm. While that man, late for work, was crossing the street, Daisy had finished rehearsing, and was taking a shower. And while Daisy was showering, the taxi was waiting outside a boutique for the woman to pick up a package, which hadn’t been wrapped yet, because the girl who was supposed to wrap it had broken up with her boyfriend the night before, and forgot.

When the package was wrapped, the woman, who was back in the cab, was blocked by a delivery truck, all the while Daisy was getting dressed. The delivery truck pulled away and the taxi was able to move, while Daisy, the last to be dressed, waited for one of her friends, who had broken a shoelace. While the taxi was stopped, waiting for a traffic light, Daisy and her friend came out the back of the theater. And if only one thing had happened differently: if that shoelace hadn’t broken; or that delivery truck had moved moments earlier; or that package had been wrapped and ready, because the girl hadn’t broken up with her boyfriend; or that man had set his alarm and got up five minutes earlier; or that taxi driver hadn’t stopped for a cup of coffee; or that woman had remembered her coat, and got into an earlier cab, Daisy and her friend would’ve crossed the street, and the taxi would’ve driven by. But life being what it is – a series of intersecting lives and incidents, out of anyone’s control – that taxi did not go by, and that driver was momentarily distracted, and that taxi hit Daisy, and her leg was crushed.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Baby Josie was special.  She’d had kitty fever as a baby and had managed to shake it off and survive when some of her brothers and sisters could not.  She couldn’t jump.  She couldn’t really run, as her back legs would move at a different pace than her front legs and it caused her to turn in circles when she tried.  She was the last survivor of Josie (the mother cat).  The rest either succumbed to the kitty fever or ran off, including Josie herself.  Therefore, Baby Josie was the only cat I knew growing up.

She doted on my dad and tolerated the rest of us.  She protected our backyard from strays and other animals with a ferocity that belied her frailty and normal docile nature.  Baby Josie was special.

The day she died I had agreed to volunteer at a Boy Scout function to box up donated cans and other goods for the needy in one of our annual drives, but I woke that morning in a bad mood and didn’t feel like doing something nice for anyone else.  So, I told my dad that I didn’t want to go and he let me stay home.  He went anyway, and my older brother went with him.

Once they were gone I opened the garage door and went in search of fun and mischief.  At some point I met up with a group of neighborhood kids who were also taking advantage of the lovely weekend weather.  One of them had their dog with them, running wild with us unleashed.  We wandered the streets, chasing each other, laughing, boasting, daring, and engaging in play as only children can do.

At some point we found ourselves in the street in front of my house.  At some point I noticed the dog was missing.

I raced through the open garage.  My heart sank when I noticed the door from the garage to the backyard was also open.  My heart sank further when I found the dog panting, from exuberant play, next to Baby Josie.  She was breathing, but they were strangled gasps.

The drag marks in the ground plainly showed what had happened.  The dog had wandered into the backyard, had found the kitty and had wanted to play.  Baby Josie couldn’t move fast enough to actually play with the much larger, much stronger, and much healthier dog.  Somehow in the brief encounter, her neck was snapped.

I frantically scrambled inside and called for my mom to help.  I think we were both in shock and all we could think to do was to call my dad.  He left the volunteer event, leaving my brother there, but by the time he got home it was too late.  She had already died.  In hindsight we knew there was nothing anybody could have done at that point anyway, the injury was too severe.

Life is a series of intersecting incidents, out of anyone’s control, and if only one thing had happened differently…

If we hadn’t started playing in front of my house.  If the dog had been on a leash.  If I hadn’t found the neighborhood kid with the dog because they’d been delayed by something at their home.  If I had closed the garage door behind me when I left.  If I hadn’t stayed home and had just gone to the volunteer event like I was supposed to, Baby Josie would have lived beyond that day.

My family has told me it wasn’t my fault.  Logically, I know that it wasn’t.  Common sense tells me that there were too many things in play that morning, all of them out of my control, for the choices I made to be directly responsible for her death.  I know all of this…  and yet, though twenty years have passed, I am still wracked with guilt.

She died because of the choices I made that morning.  I may not be fully responsible, but I am still responsible.  Her death was my fault.  Even if I could find the words and peace to forgive myself, the guilt would remain, because guilt cares not for forgiveness, I will never set it aside.

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29 thoughts on “My fault. My guilt.

  1. First of all I am so sorry. Being a cat lover I can well imagine the horrific heartbreak. I don’t think as children we even begin to fathom how something so simple and seemingly insignificant as leaving a door open or unlocked could alter our lives permanently. I would venture to say that probably most of us have a story similar to this in some way. I know I do, only in my story unfortunately I am truly at fault for what happened. What we learn from such things is that little seemingly insignificant ripples can change the fabric of our lives in big dramatic ways. The guilt reminds us.. You were just a normal kid doing normal kid stuff. I am certain that event changed you… changed the way you understand and interact with life. At the very least it heightened your awareness…. and I am equally certain that baby Josie knew your heart and does not blame you or anyone else for what happened. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

      • Hi Matt. Hope u r well. I am better. Completing new paperwork today to reinstate restraining order with rapist/abuser. Still hurt inside out, head to toe. Spent time with new bf? last night. He confessed, in so many words that he is in love with me. I still don’t know if he can love me how I need to be needed. But he is damn near close enough to it. He read my mind, as females expect men to do. He knew that I was lonely and needed him to “love up on me” as I call it. I did the same and put him to sleep. He has a thing though. He won’t stay the entire morning and wake up with me. Only has once and had to leave immediately. I think he feels unworthy of sleeping in my bed and with me. I’m still trying to figure that one out. Might just let it go. But not him yet. He is good for me and helps me from being hurt, angry and tired. I see him as a blessing. Even if he never says “Kimberly, I love you” again, he said it once with tears in his eyes and with sincerity and determination to keep on loving me. He touched me to my soul. And although I didn’t say it back out of fear, I love him with all of my heart and soul. Might as well be my husband but won’t re-marry. A man surrendering to a female is risky so is the reverse. U can post if u like. Tty soon.

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  2. Life is so full of tragic events, people who don’t care and r ungreatful, injustices, dissappointments, hurt, sorrow. The only thing that holds me together is God’s promise of everlasting life. Still hurt, angry and tired. Cancelled court due to all of the above…

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      • Hi Matt. Hope u r well. I am better. Completing new paperwork today to reinstate restraining order with rapist/abuser. Still hurt inside out, head to toe. Spent time with new bf? last night. He confessed, in so many words that he is in love with me. I still don’t know if he can love me how I need to be needed. But he is damn near close enough to it. He read my mind, as females expect men to do. He knew that I was lonely and needed him to “love up on me” as I call it. I did the same and put him to sleep. He has a thing though. He won’t stay the entire morning and wake up with me. Only has once and had to leave immediately. I think he feels unworthy of sleeping in my bed and with me. I’m still trying to figure that one out. Might just let it go. But not him yet. He is good for me and helps me from being hurt, angry and tired. I see him as a blessing. Even if he never says “Kimberly, I love you” again, he said it once with tears in his eyes and with sincerity and determination to keep on loving me. He touched me to my soul. And although I didn’t say it back out of fear, I love him with all of my heart and soul. Might as well be my husband but won’t re-marry. A man surrendering to a female is risky so is the reverse. U can post if u like. Tty soon.

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  3. Oh I am so sorry. It is not your fault, but like you said, guilt follows no logic. I’m dealing with my own guilt involving my dog and her puppies, and no amount of reason can shake it.
    If you are interested, there is a book called “The Anatomy of Grief” by Lisa Roberts on Amazon. The author is a veterinarian who has seen countless pet deaths and helped families of all shapes and sizes come to terms with their loss. I recommend thumbing through it.

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  4. This is sad to read. What happened was so not your fault. Life is choice plus circumstance equals consequence. People make similar choices every day but circumstance dictates the outcome. I’m sure that if you knew what was going to happen, you would have gone to your function, but who knows what would have happened after that? Twisted is my logic. Hugs.

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  5. I have had a dog and loved him fanatically. Your post brought tears to my eyes. You were not directly responsible for her death.

    I read about a case where the mother was v strict about the studies. The child used to get regular and normal beatings from his mother. One day she hit him and he accidentally hit the wall, suffered an internal head injury and died on the spot.

    Can this case be of some consolation to you? What about that lady? Did she actually ‘ kill’ her child?

    In Hinduism it is called ‘ Prarabdh’ which means ‘destiny’. Birth, death and all relations are destined. Even the lady who asks for a lift on the street and you oblige is some past karmic account. We have to fulfill it.

    No’ if I could and if I would’ . Its all decided.

    Peace to you.

    Ashu

    Liked by 1 person

  6. i am so sorry this happened and it is not your fault, merely the universe setting up a series of events, each one leading to another. though you know this logically, as you said, the emotion overrules at times, please forgive yourself and remember that you did not intend for this to happen.

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  7. You’re such a deep feeling person, that even after all these years, and with knowing on some level that you weren’t really responsible, this still bothers you.

    I’m the same way.

    The intellectual truth of the matter may be that you were not REALLY responsible, but it’s your ability to feel your connection to al of this that makes you compassionate. Compassion is one of the most important qualities a human can possess. It can be draining, because we feel so damn much. And being compassionate means that there is always some sadness there, just at the surface, waiting to bubble up, because there the human condition is so tragic.

    Writing and creating and loving from that place of deep, deep empathy are what makes you magical. Just don’t live there. Too draining. Visit, from time to time.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I can kind of relate, but don’t think this is the place for that story. There’s a lot of blame that could go around here, but just know that sometimes things – even very unfortunate things – happen.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Matt, I know how you feel. There are many events in life that we feel we should have had more control over, but in reality don’t. It shows the depth of your character that you are still upset all these years later. Guilt is a bitch, it will haunt you as long as you let it. There is no way that you can ever know what would have prevented the death of your dog. I think the world works on a large scale with all things being interconnected, we as individuals rarely see the “big picture” from our limited individual perspective. Nobody can really offer you sound advice, u you have stated a clear understanding that many factors were at play that day, most of which you couldn’t control. I think that the real fear is that when we realize how little control we have over the way events play out in our life, it is scary. Thanks for sharing your story. I read your work often still, but have seemed so busy that commenting is a luxury, I must make a better effort. All the best my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You’ll carry the guilt and hurt until you can forgive yourself for a series of accients. One of the (now deceased) Sisters here used to say something along the lines of “forgiveness is accepting that there is no chance of improving the past, in order to improve the future”.

    Yes, right now you have that hurt with you, and that’s OK. Acknowledging it is half the battle. Xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Children haven’t yet learned to think through all the consequences of their actions. I have a similar story I won’t share, but suffice to say I ended up hating dogs for a long, long time. I blamed the dog, not myself – I hope you can do the same.

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