Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Top Regrets of Dying People

There is a list of five regrets that Bronnie Ware sums up out of her experience as a hospice nurse that is on the Internet (She has a Facebook Page). They are as follows:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard.

3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had kept in touch with my friends.

5. I wish I had let myself be happier.

This list changed my life. Each of them were from many people in which Ware was there for their last moments. I had heard from people who told me about relatives who were on their death beds and had said some of the same things but not so well as Ware did above. It is far more detailed in the above web address. She is working on the book and there are different web sites based on "Five Regrets" on the Internet. I put it on my Facebook and Twitter.

Ware said the first one was by far the most common of all of the regrets. It is the one that I am dealing with right now. It is also the hardest to do. Being who one really is in this life is not easy and it is easy to see why people often don't do it. It also takes courage and audacity. People, our friends and relatives, don't want to see us change even if it is attempts to be who we really are. Strangers don't want to see strangers be authentic so it would be very difficult for them to see these attempts in their loved ones. Friendships and even relatives relationships have been severed because of this and yet this is the number one regret of dying people.

I have had friends who came out of the closet, so to speak, in their senior years and disclosed their true sexual orientation even when they are grandparents and lose everything. Some families just go along with it while others cut all ties with the individual. My friend Ted has never regretted coming out with his status as a gay man. He said it was hard living a life that was a sham with so many lies and many of them were to himself. Even now, people he has known for a long time will throw them up to him. He feels better he does not have to lie anymore but sad that he did for so long.

Both Ted and I pledged the other day to be honest. In a sense, it is hard to do that and already I have run into trouble but I don't regret it. I feel lighter at the end of the day. I can imagine living a lie full of deceits so that one's life is what everyone expects it to be and then on the death bed wanting to live just one moment the way one wanted instead of the way everyone else wanted especially when those people died a long time before you did, namely one's parents.

I had a friend who married right out of high school because that was expected but she never loved her husband. He was a good man and he died a few years ago and she missed him for a while but felt empty because she never did the things she wanted to do when she was younger because she did what her parents wanted her to. She loves her children and grandchildren but wishes for something she can't identify, an empty feeling in her chest. Her parents are long gone and her life's circumstances are comfortable. She finds surrounding herself with things that many people can't buy and traveling to places many can't afford to go just to make herself feel better. I suspect she will be one of the ones on her death bed who will regret that she never lived her life the way she wanted to because in a sense she is still living the life her parents expected.

Looking down that list, there are other things that I have done that I wish I had not done. I have let friends go. Once when I tried to reconnect with one very dear friend I found out she had passed away. I was grief stricken for awhile because I did not say goodbye. I don't know what happened to so many people I knew over the years. I kept running away from bad memories forgetting that there were good ones in there too. Life is so damn short.

Everyone assumes that we all want to be happy and do what we can to be as happy as we can. It's not true. We get these fixations that we don't deserve happiness and joy. It is all in our gasp. Yesterday at the Loaves and Fishes where I have two art classes, this senior citizen told me to move aside and that I was in his way. He was walking as I was and not much older than I was. There are many seniors there that grumble about this or that. I wrote about this one woman who complained that I wanted to be gluten free there and that was just too much for that organization. Yet, when I said hello to her downtown because I thought I recognized her she was impressed that I would be friendly. Instead of being irritable as she usually is, she was very friendly. I always am friendly with anyone. It takes so little to be friendly. I don't remember people so I smile at everyone. Many people growl back. I don't take it personally. It takes more to be irritable than to be friendly. The grouchy man did not make himself feel better, not at all.

Music especially good classical music makes me very happy. When I was in Korea, I thought I would die for some J.S. Bach or any classical music. When I heard it for the first time on a bad sounding radio, I thought it was sublime. The woman who was there thought I was mad because it had such bad sound. She was so unhappy and did things to make herself so unhappy.

Many of us do so many things that make us unhappy as that woman did such as lying and taking things that did not belong to her. Of course, she will continue to be unhappy. I had a supervisor who was very mean to those he supervised. He could not sleep at night because of bad dreams. He hated people who were happy and made fun of them. One woman who volunteered at the mission to feed the homeless worked there. He sneered at her and called her Mother Teresa. There are sociopaths and psychopaths in the world who do not feel badly when they do horrible things to people, but I don't think the five regrets pertain to them. They don't regret anything and have little or no feelings.

We all do things that make sure we are less happy in our lives. We lie on our income taxes and gossip about our neighbors and cut someone off in traffic. These are the things that prevent us from being happy although at the time it does not seem that way. What can explain a whole nation such as Germany in the early part of the 20th century doing what they did to their own citizens or what some in the Middle East are doing now? On their death beds, there will be some heavy sighs.

We are all human beings. We all make mistakes. The above list gives us a second chance to make some changes so that when we are on our death beds and we are taking the one way train trip to the cemetery it won't be such a sad one after all. Make no mistake, we all have to take it. We owe a great deal of gratitude to Ware for compiling it.

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