CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Whew! Nothing like an "in your face" message coming across your radar to stop you in your tracks. Or at least turn off your autopilot and pay attention.
"The Top Five Regrets of the Dying" is a book that has popped up for me. So, I decided to stop and listen to the messages. Which led me to think about the way I'm spending my time.
The book title is a real show stopper in itself. And when I learned about the author, it was even more meaningful.
Australian Bronnie Ware is an author and singer/songwriter who has held a number of diverse jobs. In her search for more meaningful work, she landed in the area of palliative care, taking care of patients who were in the last weeks of their lives.
"People grow a lot when they're faced with their own mortality," Ware says. "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 -- every single one of them."
That's got to be comforting to those of us who are left behind. And it can also serve as a call to find this quality before we're on our death beds.
Common themes surfaced again and again in the author's conversations with those in their final days. She began by writing a blog about her experiences, which eventually led to the memoir in which she weaves her own life story among those for whom she was a caregiver. Here are the five most common themes that emerged, along with the author's observations--and mine.
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 realize their life is almost over and look clearly on it, it's easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most had not honored even half of their dreams and had to die knowing it was because of choices they had made, or not made.
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
Men and women both lamented that they'd missed their partner's companionship and their children's youth by spending so much of their lives on a work treadmill. By simplifying our lifestyles and making conscious changes along the way, it's possible not to need the income we think we do. Time is now being acknowledged as the new currency. It all comes down to how we want to spend our life's energy.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.