top 5 regrets of the dying: an invocation for 2012

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Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

top 5 regrets of the dying: an invocation for 2012

in 31 years of life, i’ve never made a single new year’s resolution. it’s not that i don’t think it’s a good idea to set some goals, but more that i could easily set some goals on the 1st of march or august or whatever month…and i don’t do that either.

a new year, though, does offer a good opportunity to look ahead and embrace a fresh start. certainly, the analogy of new life is one that is particularly salient right now. so how about we begin the year on the blog with a post about death? 🙂

several days ago, i ran across a post by blogger/writer/twitter-extraordinaire kelly oxford titled, nurse reveals top 5 regrets of the dying. it was actually a post she found on the arise india forum and the original poster wrote the following:

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again.

she then listed (with descriptions) the top 5 things, which 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’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.

i’ve thought about this list several times and thought it was a good way to begin the new year. i’m not going to add a great deal of commentary because i think, largely, they speak for themselves.

i wanted to post this more as a challenge rather than a set of resolutions. it’s really an invitation to be self-evaluative to begin the new year. resolutions are often about losing weight or reading more books or something that’s relatively surface-level in terms of lifelong significance.

this list, though, is more about a posture of living. it’s about embracing the uniqueness of your own path. it’s about realizing your work is merely a means and not an end (and that it shouldn’t define you). it’s about being true to yourself while sharing life with people you love and trust. it’s everything that, quite frankly, isn’t very highly valued in our culture’s definition of success.

so, may this be an invocation for the new year. may it be a moment of self-evaluation. may this propel us all into a better way of living and being. may this lead to a new year that yields regretless life.