Bonnie Ware, a palliative care nurse, attempted to ascertain the most common regrets her patients had when they looked back on their lives. In her work she discovered that there were five regrets that came up most often for people in their last days. The original article and several interpretations of her work have been floating around for years and I know that I’ve shared them before.
Here is what she discovered are the top five regrets of the dying:
1.) I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself not the life others expected of me
2.) I wish I did not work so hard
3.) I wish I had the courage to express my feelings
4.) I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
5.) I wish I had let myself be happier
Please take a moment and consider the items above.
I’m reminded of several other quotes by people facing their mortality or working with those facing mortality:
“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”
― Mitch Albom,
“What is the most appropriate thing to say to a friend who was about to die. He answered: tell your friend that in his death, a part of you dies and goes with him. Whenever he goes, you also go. He will not be alone.
― Randy Pausch,
“We run after values that, at death, become zero. At the end of your life, nobody asks you how many degrees you have, or how many mansions you built, or how many Rolls Royces you could afford. That’s what dying patients teach you.”
– Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special. – Jim Valvano (thanks Rik)
Let me highlight what is NOT on that list:
1.) I wish I had more stuff
2.) I wish I had newer things
3.) I wish I fewer people to love
4.) I wish I made more money and spent more time at work
5.) I wish I did what everyone told me to do without ever offering up an opinion on what might actually make me happy.
The truth is we are all going to die and we have no idea when that is going to happen. Maybe it’s morbid, maybe it’s because I have experienced a lot of loss in my life, or maybe it’s because I spent some of my own career working with death and dying, but knowing that death is imminent gives me the courage to try my best to live a life that I love with the people that I love.
“Once people’s days truly are numbered, their priorities do seem to shift. According to research done on socioemotional selectivity theory, older people are more present-oriented than younger people, and are more selective in who they spend time with, sticking mostly with family and old, close friends. Other studies have shown them to also be more forgiving, and to care more for others, and less about enhancing themselves.” – The Atlantic, Julie Beck, 2015
I think death forces into perspective a great appreciation for life. Frankly, I don’t think we talk about death or grief enough in this culture.
Okay, now pause and check your pulse and take a breath.
Both of those work out okay?
Good, that means you still have time.
Image from: http://nhne-pulse.org/regrets-of-the-dying/