I spoke to one of my aunts that I haven’t chatted with in some time. I brought her up to speed on all the changes that’s been going on in my life since we last spoke. She quickly sensed that I had a lot on my plate and she could tell the pressure of meeting everyone’s expectations were weighing heavy. And even though I’ve always been appreciative of advice, no matter where it came from, the usual adage she shared regarding stress and not sweating the petty things, felt different this time. The tone was somber in mood and not the usual assuring tone I would expect from her.
I read somewhere that all advice is autobiographical. That when people give you advice, they’re really just talking to themselves in the past. And I agree wholeheartedly. So I decided to ask her what advice she would give herself if she can go back in time to talk to her 18 year old self? Without hesitation she said, “I would tell myself to enjoy every minute of your life”. “I want to re-live middle school”, she said with a sense of regret. “I want to re-live my 20’s and not take life so seriously”, she added. A few weeks after our chat, I found out that she was diagnosed with cancer not too long before we spoke on the phone.
I must have heard the same platitude a million times, but it is more profound when it’s coming from someone you care about and at the same time someone who has just realized their own mortality. Since then I have been more aware of my attitude and the choices I make when it comes to you, your mom, myself, family, life and everything in between. I’m not perfect, but it’s a start.
I’ve made it a point to pose the question whenever the opportunity presents itself. I’ll share those insights with you eventually, but for now I want to share with you a post I found in a blog that talks about the top 5 regrets people have on their deathbed.
This article is high on the list of the most life changing things I have ever read. The minute you are able to read this and understand fully the significance of it, it will be a major milestone in my role as a father.
All I can hope for is that I’ve set you up to to live a life, where the choices you make lead you down a path free of regrets.
5 Regrets People Have On Their Deathbed
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.