The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.
Ecclesiastes 7:2

Today we will be contemplating death. Just as the verse says we will all die. My title was stolen from that of a book I read some time back. The book was written by Bronnie Ware. Bronnie was taking care of people who were preparing themselves to die. Now you ask how someone can prepare him or herself for death? These people were often terminally ill, had been diagnosed with some fatal disease and had been given an estimated date of death by doctors. Let’s go straight into the regrets.

1. I wish I’d the courage to live a life true to myself, not what others expected of me: We often don’t take the road less traveled. We do things that make us comfortable. In the end we as ourselves- what if? However what if is a question we can’t know the answer to if we never tried. Having the courage to live the life we want brings closure to the what if question and we don’t live with this regret. Imagine all the great things we see around us hadn’t been started because of fear. There would be no airplanes because the Wright Brothers chose never to try to fly the plane they made from their blueprint. Imagine if men had never chose to fly into space there would be no satellites. There would be nothing great. My favorite musician Asa has a line in one of her songs; it reads “Baby you’ll never know until you try this love.” Although the song is a love song, it is true what it says- we’ll never know until we try.

I would add that we should be cautious about the life we want to live. We need to listen to others. What do we know? We are limited. We might be ignorant. Others might know more than we do. So we should seek out others’ inputs but make decisions ourselves.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard: This in some sense is a good regret. At least you look back to a virtuous act. I wonder how it will feel to say I wish I hadn’t worked so little. I believe we often regret not putting in as much effort as we can muster- that we didn’t give our 110%. However, hard work without reflection is as bad as laziness. It’s a form of laziness. It’s like the man who saws a tree without making time to sharpen his knife. This is self imposed suffering. It’s like trying to walk from city to city other than take a bus. Of course it’s more hard but it can hardly be said to be useful. But this is one form of hard work. There are people who use all tools available to them but still have to work a lot. It could be because of their ambition. It could also be because they need the resources their jobs provide. This is worthy of praise. But as everything taken to its extreme becomes ridiculous, working hard becomes ridiculous when taken to its extreme. We need balance in all things. Our lives ought to be well rounded. Are we taking care of our health by exercising and eating healthily? Are we nurturing our relationships? What are our spiritual goals? Another important question is how we can develop in our career path? It’s the last question that working hard solves. I wouldn’t ever tell someone not to work hard. I would rather say that we should all strife for our lives to be fuller. In the book this essay is based on, we learn that most people focus on work to the neglect of all other parts of their lives, especially family. You don’t want to work hard for others only to have them hate you. The idea of not working so hard also means that we shouldn’t be intense all the time. What does this mean? It means we should take things lightly sometimes. We should laugh over things and make them pass.

3. I wish I had the courage to express my real feelings: It’s difficult to live with others. We come from different backgrounds. Even if we are members of the same family we would have different temperaments. Our difference means that others will act in ways that we disagree with. It could even be more than mere disagreement. We could take offense by what people do or say. It is however often hard to confront people who wrong us. This reminds me of a time when I thought a friend’s words had been subliminally insulting. I confronted the friend rudely, and he said that wasn’t his intention. I behaved childishly. I have learnt that the best way to confront others is from a position of ignorance. You could say maybe I am wrong about you, and I am being sensitive and infantile, but this is the way I feel. The other person is unlikely to take offense. And it’s less probable that you’ll be wrong as you spoke to your friend with the view that you could be wrong.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends: We all need friends. They bring joy into our lives. Having friends comes with it’s problems as they can disappoint you, but this is no good reason to be done with all friendships. Water can drown you but that doesn’t mean that you don’t drink water. Sometimes we neglect friends we used to vibe with. We let quality relationships go stale. Saying I am busy is a lazy excuse. You probably had time to binge watch videos on Netflix or YouTube. I find people who often say they are busy so they are unable to answer or return calls curious. If that is really happening it means you are not doing something right. You should delegate more. This is not to say that we should devote all our time to our friends, but a good friendship helps us to correct our individual limitations. We might be wrong today and they will correct us. They may be wrong tomorrow and we will help them. We need people who will comfort us when times get hard. Also those who will cheer us on when it’s time for celebration. Then we do same for them.

5. I wish I had let myself be happier: Why postpone something you can have now? We often postpone our joy into he future. We tell ourselves we’ll be happy when we have good job. We’ll be happy when we find the right partner. We’ll be happy when we make enough money; even then nothing seems to be enough. We could avoid all these long winded paths and choose to be happy now. There’s nothing wrong with these goals we all want to attain. However, sometimes we need to breath, pause and think. We could push ourselves into a vicious cycle by always wanting more and more. We could get more but have no time to enjoy what we have. Stephen Covey, the writer, once sat in a train with a man whose children were misbehaving. He controlled himself till he couldn’t take it anymore. He then asked the man why he couldn’t talk to his children o stop disturbing. That’s when the man told him that perhaps the children didn’t know how to take the loss of their mum who just passed away. There is a sense in which we are simply lucky if we are happy. It’s difficult to be happy when your whole life is tumbling down. Instead of being happy I would rather say we should strive to live meaningful lives.

Thank you for reading.

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