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Top 5 regrets of dying patients

Following on the idea in the previous post about old folks and the way they laugh, I’ve been considering the findings of an Australian nurse who documented death-bed confessions of patients. The questions are:

  1. What do people resort to thinking and feeling on their death beds?
  2. And what do we learn from them?

Bronnie Ware spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.”

Here they are:

  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 hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Some thoughts and comments from my side on these things, for what they’re worth.

  1. Without a doubt, yes. But like my mom always tells me, the truth is held in tension. So with regard to #1, I don’t believe you can just be a law unto yourself and simply do your own thing… if I had my way, I’d be a travelling gypsy and my kids’ theme song would be Papa was a rolling stone. But that’s not a legacy worth leaving in today’s fragmented world.
  2. I often think about #2. Yes life is about balance. But I see a lot of apathy around. I think the sentiment in #2 is about being present, rather than absent, in one’s one head space and heart space. But I’m not convinced working hard is a bad thing. That’s where life lessons are learned: you have to put in a certain amount of hours. God’s instruction to Adam was to work in the garden.
  3. Speaking the truth to ourselves is something that’s sometimes hardest to do.
  4. Yup. Better together.
  5. Yup. Laugh, at any given moment. As per previous blog post.

What do you think?

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