By Gayla Patrick
As Thanksgiving approaches we start to think about that for which we are grateful.
Accordingly, we feel traditionally compelled to express our gratitude around the holiday. Mostly, we recognize many of the same blessings such as; family, food, jobs, clothes, homes, cars, pets, and so on. While these are truly things to be thankful for, sometimes we should delve further than usual and discover if there’s more we might need to be focused on.
After a bit of pondering, I found myself thinking about death and asking, “When I am dying, what is it that I would be most thankful for if I had it?”
The single word that came to mind, and what I consider would likely be a typical answer for anyone, was time. Then I began to wonder what it is that I would do with that time if it were to be granted to me on my deathbed. All of these sequential thoughts led me into a little research where I discovered that in their last stages of life, many people have the same regrets.
A palliative care nurse from Australia named Bronnie Ware, had worked closely with dying patients and noticed a theme in the regrets that they had vocalized during their final days on earth.
In her bestseller, The Top 5 Regrets of Dying, she lists the following as the most common:
- I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expect of me.
- I wish I didn’t work 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 I had let myself be happier.
As I perused through some of the accompanying text of these regrets, it became quite clear to me that I, in fact, am most grateful that I do have time…time to adjust and make changes so that perhaps I am not on my dying leg with a pocket full of sorrows for not having taken advantage of the time I had been given.
So, as we go into this season of giving thanks, let’s utilize the late onset of wisdoms from these passing souls to not only be grateful for our remaining time, but to honor that time by heeding their words and attempting to accomplish what they were unfortunately not able to do.
Here are some counter strategies that might prove to effectively put those five regrets to rest before you are:
1. While you still have time, remember your dreams and then take steps to make them realities. Yes, we have responsibilities and we actually do have expectations placed upon us by others. But, it is apparently important that we not disregard our own hearts deepest desires. Pull one of those precious dreams off of the shelf and set goals that lead you toward bringing it to fruition. Persevere through opposition by understanding that not being true to oneself is one of the most common regrets of the dying.
2. While you still have time, realize that spending more of it with loved ones, more of it doing things you want to do, more of it appreciating what money cannot buy is by far, more rewarding than the extra dollars you may make using all your time for work. By not doing so, you may miss the life that you spent all your time slaving away to earn.
3. While you still have time, say the things you wish to say to those whom you wish to say it. Express your feelings openly despite the fear of exposure. Make it a verbal priority to honestly connect on a deeper level by stating your feelings. In the end, it could be those utterances that you suppress that actually do you in.
4. While you still have time, reach out to friends who have faded away into the background of your life. Old friendships are embedded into our psyches and their significance is deeply present as we pass from this existence.
5. While you still have time, choose to be happy. Regardless of the circumstances in your life, happiness is still a choice. If you’re waiting for the perfect conditions to be happy, you’ll never make it. Smiling and laughing now could save you from crying remorsefully later.
There’s nothing that those dying people spoke of that was too difficult to accomplish and sadly, that is what they realized as they were heading for the exit.
“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take, relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.” ~unknown
This Thanksgiving as we are mulling over what we have to be grateful for, let us make sure that we are most thankful for the time we still have to annul our future regrets.
Gayla Patrick is somewhat of a gypsy. She originated from Illinois, but wanderlust has carried her far and wide. She has a bachelor’s in psychology and sociology along with teaching certificates in TEFL/ESL and Montessori. Her chosen occupations as a teacher and a writer have allowed her to travel abroad and experience cultures vastly different from her own. Currently, she’s hanging out with a friendly neighbor to the north enjoying the sights and sounds of Windsor, Ontario, doing some freelance writing, working on a novel and recovering from a bout with breast cancer. She also loves nature and critters of all kind—especially elephants, drawing and painting, crocheting and cooking. She thoroughly enjoys Facebooking with people, old and new, from all walks of life, and is a singer/songwriter. She meditates, irregularly, often using binaural beats and isochronic tones and finds meaningful discussion on metaphysics and philosophy engaging.
Editor: Dana Gornall