Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
When I worked/studied at Purdue, I interned at a cancer center. That experience quite literally changed my life. Some people have asked why I stopped blogging. Truthfully, I lost my words after the election. I lost my hope. I never wanted this blog to be an op-ed or rants and raves and for months that is all I could bring forth.
Then, my husband convinced me to go to the Women’s March on Washington. To be honest, I was scared to go to this march I’ve been politically active my entire life. I’ve attended numerous marches and rallies. Social justice is in my bone marrow. But, after seeing the violence at what’s his name’s rallies, I did not want to get hurt or die.
This excuse did nothing to dissuade my husband from telling me a truth I already knew in my heart: I would strongly regret not going. I talk with people every day about living consistently with their values and now I needed to do the same.
We drove overnight, through dense fog, listening to 80’s hair bands, and stopping at dive bars. I do love a good road trip. We arrived at five in the morning and suited up. The energy was palpable. I was where I needed to be. We found the stage hours before the march and waited. We didn’t say much. The speakers started and the crowd was roaring with passion.
This is the resistance. Hate and fear will not stand. We will fight. We are fighting.
The crowd continued to grow and grow and grow. At one point, I looked up the hill at Independence Boulevard and saw thousands of people flooding into the space. It astounded me. I will never forget that moment as long as I live and I will be glad I went as long as I live.
Sharing that space with those people, my people, changed me on a fundamental level. I had words again. I knew that love would win because millions of people took up arms to fight for love to win. I had a feeling of hope for the first time since the early morning of November 9th. To my surprise, I still feel hopeful despite what that man is doing with his dirty pen.
You see, alternative facts are lies and the truth always wins. Lies are too unstable to withstand the test of time. This man is full of lies. He has hijacked minds to think we need to fear one another. There is no need for a wall or a registry.
The genius of his plan is brain science. When humans are afraid they operate using the limbic system. This part of the brain is wired for safety and it is easily convinced to be afraid. What is worse is that when we are afraid the smart parts of our brains are turned off. The prefrontal cortex is where compassion, critical thinking, and rationality are located. We need this part to connect in healthy ways with others. We cannot do that when we are afraid. You are safe, if you are reading this, in this moment, you are safe.
What does any of this have to do with the regrets of the dying and my internship at a cancer center? Everything.
When I worked with the dying they taught me so many lessons about what truly matters in life. For eighteen months, I was reminded to live a life that fit my truth. They reminded me that my voice matters. They told me to never be ashamed of my beliefs and who I am. They told me that in the final analysis, I would regret the times I did not speak up when I knew it was the right thing to do.
I heard stories that haunted these people about the times they swallowed their words. They grabbed me by the shoulders and begged me to be true to myself. They told me to do it now, whatever it was that I needed to do, because there is no tomorrow. They kindly reminded me that as long as I was breathing there was hope. And, despite the chaos, I’m still breathing.
These beautiful souls shared their truths with me and I promised them I would not forget their stories or insights. I have not and will not. They gave me the greatest secrets of life: Speak your truth, live your truth, be your truth.
I summon these souls when I speak up or post something online. I see their faces and remember their words. I carry them with me in the pockets of my heart. I will speak my truth despite my fears, I will love every moment of this life, I will take adventures, I will say I love you, I will do it all. I promised them I would and I am loyal to my promises.
I will speak my truth about this man, his people, and his pen. Bullies or lies will not deter me. I will not be ashamed of my values and my truth. I will not tolerate hate in my space. I will use my boundaries to protect my space. I will love my tribe harder than I ever have. I will keep my space sacred. I will protect you.