I read about a nurse who was specialised in palliative care, the care of a patient at the end of that person’s life. This nurse goes to the homes of the patients every day, as the patients chose to die in their homes instead of at the hospital.
The nurse got very close relations with the patients. They spoke about many things and after some years the nurse found that there were five things that most patients had in common. These five things were the things the patients regretted. You might think that the patients had some large, dramatic regrets from their pasts, but the things they spoke about mostly were the things that came closest to their hearts.
First, I wish I had had the courage to live my own life and not the life others were expecting of me. This is the most common thing people regret. When people realise that their life is almost over, and they look back, it is easy to see how many dreams they have never fulfilled. It is important to try to fulfill at least some of your dreams, while you are healthy. We are so busy going through life with all its obstacles, so we seldom take time to reflect over what we wished from life.
What is important for you? Giving your kids a proper education? Getting a new roof on your house? Fencing your garden so the neighbour’s cows don’t come inside and eat your vegetables? What you dream of is in your heart. Maybe you keep your dreams as a secret because you are afraid someone would laugh at you. Some people believe that you should keep your goals and dreams to yourself, because you are afraid that if you share them with anyone they will become envious and try to spoil your plans. That can be a consequence if you share your dreams with the wrong person, but if you choose wisely, you might be helped by someone instead.
The second thing people regretted was they wished they wouldn’t have been working so hard. It was mainly men who had this regret and they had missed out on their children’s growth from babies to young adults. The men had also missed out on the relationship with their wives. Isn’t it sad that the people we should care most about, are the people we take for granted and finally one day we realise that we have lost contact and don’t know each other anymore? The childhood ends so fast, our kids grow and we don’t take time to enjoy having them until we have lost them. Of course people have to work so they can support their families, but they must also take time to bond. It is important to speak with each other and not only to each other. We tell the kids to do this and that, we correct their faults, but do we praise them enough? Do we praise our spouses enough?
Number 3 among the things people regret at the end of their lives is that they wish they had had the courage to express their feelings. How many times don’t we have to bite our tongues to avoid telling others how we really feel? I’m not talking about those who always share their so-called “truths” with anyone, what I mean is that we avoid being honest and respectful towards ourselves. We care so much about others that we forget ourselves. Our negative emotions become stuck inside us and turn to illnesses instead. Psychosomatic illnesses are caused by bottled up emotions. Depression, fatigue, migraine are just some of these illnesses.
Number four on the list of what people regret at the end of their lives is they wish they had kept contact with their friends. Friends are the people that stay with you no matter what happens in your life. They share your joy and they cry with you in times of sorrow. True friends don’t care about your income and try to stay close to you to somehow benefit from your wealth. True friends don’t pat your back all the time and loudly declare your friendship. Their actions speak louder than their words. The quietest one can be the one who truly listens to you. That is the person who doesn’t have to speak all the time. Instead, the silence allows us to reflect. The reflection is like a mirror, you see yourself in the eyes of your friend, the friend who is able to read your soul and give you the right answers when you need them.
The last thing on the list of things people regret at the end of their lives is they wish they would have allowed themselves to be happier. Doesn’t that sound strange? Allow yourself to be happy? Is that even a choice? Yes, we can choose to be happy, and that is a matter of an approach to life. I am not a guru, dancing in the moonlight, only wearing purple-coloured clothes and singing songs about happiness, sunshine and butterflies. Life has hit me hard many times, but I made a deliberate choice to never become bitter. I had seen, in my close family, the toxic consequences of bitterness and I didn’t want that for myself, my spouse or my children.
Bitterness eats a person alive. It infects the soul and every word that comes out stings the receiver. A bitter person can’t handle seeing others are happy. They feel that kids are loud and disturbing instead of joyful. They hate when someone else is successful. They demand to be the centre of the world. If they can’t succeed, no one else should succeed. A bitter person eats up all your energy and joy. You feel exhausted every time you have been near that person. You can’t change that person. The only thing you can change is your approach to that person. If possible, try to avoid the bitter person as much as you can. It is hard, though, if it is a family member, as in my own case.
Sometimes we need to make painful decisions and take a step out of the community of a family. It can be a matter of life or death, and we should allow ourselves to live to the fullest. Living in a society where everyone knows what others are doing does not make life easy for someone who wishes to live in peace and quiet. Caring about others is one thing, but interfering in other’s lives and business is wrong. It causes stress and unnecessary conflicts. We need to learn when to take a step back and mind our own business. It is easy to say or do things we one day have to regret. We often judge other’s way of living, just because we don’t understand them and their decisions. As long as we don’t hurt one another, or do something harmful, we have to be respected for our life choices.
If we have the opportunities to change someone’s life for the better; we ought to take every chance. Being kind and caring will always pay, in one way or another, and if we don’t take the chance we might regret that one day. I often wonder if our decision makers regret their decisions; if they care about the consequences or not. Are the decisions grounded, made for a long-term in mind, or are they made in a haste with the purpose of benefitting themselves? Will they regret their decisions one day when the consequences will come back and bite them in the behind? If God allows, all of us will live until we become old. What kind of life do we want to live at the end? A life where we feel content with what we have achieved or a life full or regrets? Better make the right choice before it is too late.