The third “Act” of our human lifespan is hopefully a time of sitting back to assess where we are, where we have been, and what the future holds. It can be a painful time for some of us. We may have regrets, leftover resentments, and unhealed emotional wounds. We may need to forgive, and/or want to be forgiven for something in our past. This time can also be a time of grateful reflection regarding all that we have accomplished, and appreciation for the relationships that we cherish. For most of us, I suspect that we feel a little of both of these things.
Recently I ran across a book written by an Australian palliative care nurse named Bonnie Ware. Entitled, “Inspiration and Chai”, the book chronicles the dying “epiphanies” of people living in hospice care during the last weeks of life. Ms. Ware spent many hours listening to the final thoughts of her patients as they confronted the ending of their lives. She then faithfully recorded these thoughts and found the clear and unvarnished truth that emerges when people no longer have anything to lose. “Inspiration and Chai” reveals that at the end of life, people are remarkably similar in the way they regard the life they are soon to leave behind. The author discovered that with a little “prodding”, dying patients talk about what they would “do over” in their lives if they had the chance. These “do overs” fall into five main categories. Here then is the list of regrets most often cited by hospice patients: (stated in the first person)
- I wish I had the courage to “be myself” more
- I regret having worked so hard (the author notes that it used to be men who said this more often. Now both men and women say this)
- I wish I had risked more and had the courage to express my feelings (the author notes that this wish is most often expressed by people with illnesses associated with repressed and bitter feelings)
- I wish I had kept up with my friends better
- I wish I had let myself be happy
So, there you have it. Reading this makes me want to set the intention to live out my life fully, to be courageous, to choose happiness, and to nurture my relationships. How about you?
It’s never too late….
The secret is, I have come to believe, that for each of us the “unlived life” is already alive in us, just waiting to be claimed. You know what it is because it lives in the stirrings and the longings of your heart…. Its what you really want anyway, isn’t it?
Just listen…pay attention…and choose it….Now is the time