This Grandma’s View on the“Top Five Regrets of the Dying”

“Top Five Regrets of the Dying”My brother, who is single and has no children, other than this Grandma’s children by proxy, sent me the article called the “Top Five Regrets of the Dying.”  To be honest, I almost did not open it.  It came from another country and was published in 2012, over a year and a half ago!  Why now?  I have not asked my brother why he sent it now but here is the link:

Like all Boomers, this Grandma NEVER can face the issue of death.  Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young,” is what I sing.  If I am forever young, why should I think of dying?  Hmmm.  What caught my eye was that the author:

 Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

 Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”

 I always want to gain greater wisdom, so I read on.

 The first, “the courage to live a life true to oneself, not the life others expected of me,” resonated with me.  As a child of Holocaust survivors, I, at an early age, was indoctrinated that I was living for at least five others who were killed by the Nazis.  I had to live life to the fullest to give meaning to the loss of those whose lives had been cut short.  I had to be the best artist, because Aunt Raisel would have been an artist if she had not been killed.  I had to write a book, because Uncle Pesach was a writer, and he would have written a book if he had not been killed.  I will not bore you with the rest, but needless to say, I created artwork in my young adulthood and I have written a book.  However it took long adulthood to feel comfortable with the challenges, some might call burdens, that my parents put upon me.  In lots of ways, I am thankful for the fullness of my life by virtue of what was expected of me. 

 On the other hand, my aunt, also a Holocaust survivor, got lymphoma when she was 65.  She had saved all her life to travel at retirement.  She said “live while you can, travel while you can,” and do so before age 65.  I listened to her as well.  After all, I am an “over the top” grandmother.  I have tried to make most of my travel dreams come true.  The rest may never come true—not of my doing—but because of world unrest.  I may forever see the pyramids in pictures as it is too dangerous for me to go in person!  I can relate to Bronnie Ware’s number one, if we do not have health we do not have anything, and we must take advantage of the years in which we have good health:

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 honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”

The second tip this Grandma feels we have a DUTY to impart to all the parents of our grandchildren while they are young:

2. I wish I hadn’t worked 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.”

Number three is a query for me personally.  This Grandma is not afraid to express her feelings.  After all, I created this blog!  But, I guess this sense of freedom to say as I feel has come with long age and understanding that experience brings with long age.  My 89 year old mother-in-law and eighty something year old aunt have no filter at all and I personally think they have earned the right to say anything they want!

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.”

 This Grandma knows the value of long (we never say old) friends.  It is the same great value as being in a long marriage.  There is a shared history.  There are shared memories.  There is the sharing of hard times and good times and life passage events.  We understand each other.  We do not necessarily have to speak often or see each other often.  I reconnected with a long friend after a two decade hiatus.  It was as if we did not skip a day!  On the other hand, a long friend moved away and all efforts to stay connected have failed thus far.  I am going to send her this post specially.  I miss her.  Here is number four:

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

“Often they would not truly realize 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.”

Wow!  Number five coming up is so true.  We each beat ourselves up.  We sometimes are our own worst enemies.  I know that the expectations I have of myself are greater than anyone else has of me.  Okay, maybe not greater than Grandpa’s!  My Mother always asked my every night if I was happy that day because the Nazis might come tomorrow and I might not have a tomorrow in which to be happy.  I thank her for recognizing daily happiness and making daily happiness is important in life.  This is another tip we Grandmas have a duty to pass along to our children and grandchildren.

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.”

 Grandchildren give us another opportunity to laugh properly and have silliness in our lives today.  Grandpa and I dance and sing with our grandchildren, we are silly and funny, and laugh and laugh.  Yes, my voice is terrible and my grandchildren tell me so.  But life’s joys are enhanced by such silliness and laughing with grandchildren.

I personally like to emphasize the positive and not the negative and the article ends with a question this Grandma does not like:

What’s your greatest regret so far, and what will you set out to achieve or change before you die?

Here is Grandma’s question:

What is your greatest life’s joy so far, and how will you set out to achieve the continuation and enhancement of life’s

 

Joy,

 

Mema

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