I’ve told my children that when I die, to release balloons in the sky to celebrate that I graduated. For me, death is a graduation. — Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
The top 5 Regrets in Life You Should Avoid
“Oh no,” I heard my wife’s voice drop in the bedroom. I went in to pick it up and found her peering through the window, the red glow of an ambulance flashing upon her face. We assumed the obvious. Across the street, our ninety-four-year-old neighbor died in his home.
Even the noblest and most peaceful death after a long and happy life has a way of nudging me awake. As we waited for the paramedics to escort him away, we watched through our bedroom window like it was a TV flipped to the Channel 6 Morning News. I felt a screen descend over my glossy eyes. My feet were one hundred pound weights fixed to the floor while gravity clutched my ankles. I became solemnly aware of my slow breathing, the saliva clinging to the back of my throat, and the blood pulsating throughout my body. It’s as if the living never expect to meet death. When it comes, we are sobered by the harsh reality. I was caught again. I had thought life was here to stay only to remember death would eventually take a turn.
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Forgetfulness is not Always Freedom
Writer and poet, Khalil Gibran once said that “Forgetfulness is a form of freedom.” It can indeed be liberating and good that we forget about death in the ever steady currents of life. It is good we don’t walk around with aluminum foil wrapped around our heads and spouting off doomsday warnings to frightened kids on the street.
[bctt tweet=”Too often, we see what’s in front of us without seeing what’s ahead of us.” username=”havingtime”]
The forgetting of death in the day-to-day allows us to live through the rhythm and routines of life but it does not serve us well to forget about it in its entirety. We need the occasional sobering reminder when someone we know dies: if it were not for remembering death, we might forget how to live. It becomes clear that coasting and trudging along is an unfortunate waste of the breaths we’ve been given.
Learning From the Regrets of the Dying
Deathbed priorities value the things, the people, and mentalities of the moment that truly matter in the end.
Too often, we see what’s in front of us without seeing what’s ahead of us. Prioritizing our lives in this way involves learning from the regrets of the dying and placing the greatest value on what matters most. We ought to make the effort to enrich our lives by staying alerted, worrying less about the little things, and focusing more on the valuable things.
Death is difficult but even more so when it closes the curtain on a dissatisfied life. It would seem that the pangs of our deepest regrets must be strongest on our deathbeds. A book written by a palliative nurse, The Top 5 Regrets Of The Dying, summarizes the end-of-life woes of mankind and offers insight into what our priorities could be:
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Why should we join the chorus that sings these regrets in their final days?
We can sing a different, more joyful tune, one of a full and satisfied life because we prioritized what mattered most. We can look back on our years alive and smile because we lived while having deathbed priorities.
Read the list of regrets again and imagine what it would look like to live a life without those regrets: not living simply to meet the expectations of others; giving yourself permission to rest and relax; courageously telling people what you are really feeling; calling up a friend to say hello; enjoying life in the moment without worrying about the future.
Let’s fight to minimize our regrets for when the ambulance comes for us…
Let us live in the moment but never without perspective and let us fear death but never too much. Surely, my ninety-four-year-old neighbor was aware his day would come soon. I wonder how his final days were and I imagine that they were filled with an amazing respect for life as a result of his profound reverence for death.
When I watched the paramedics wheeling out his body, uncovered, and propped up, I was mortified. As they lifted him into the back of the ambulance, a sigh of relief accompanied my realization that he was still alive! The paramedics shut the doors behind him, packed up, drove down the street, and turned out of our neighborhood. We don’t know what happened next.
My wife and I talked about the eventful morning as we put on our coats, laced our shoes, and got in the car to run our Saturday errands. We went on with our day just like it was any other day. As we moved on with our lives, we forgot about our neighbor, the haunting glow of the ambulance, and, once again, the ever present whisper of death.
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