Since college, I’ve been an occasional hospice volunteer and it’s brought incredible desire for honesty in my life. To come beside someone going through great pain or loss is to come face-to-face with those same issues in own lives. It can be frightening and difficult experience for everyone touched by it, but in that, we are not alone. Death is something we all must go through, we cannot out-smart it or avoid it; we can only accept it. Such a thought can either fill us with depressing fear or optimistic gratitude for what we have now.
There’s something tender and healing about those who don’t run away from death, they have an unsurpassed clarity of life’s true treasures. My experience with hospice care has reminded me that if I make a conscious choice to move towards my greatest fear, the fear of loosing everything — death even — the grips of that fear can be loosened in many more areas of my life. The experiences I’ve shared with these families courageously facing dire circumstances have been a graceful gift helping me face the more smaller forms of death in my own life. The things that I’m afraid of haven’t gone away entirely, but it’s gotten easier to take that first step forward. A beautiful change takes place where life isn’t just about holding onto it anymore, but truly living and embracing every moment of it.
TOP 5 REGRETS OF THE DYING
- I wish I 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 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.
Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse, spent several years caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. In that time, they shared with her their dying epiphanies and she started writing them down in a collection now called, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. We all want to share our experiences so others (especially our children) won’t have to make the same mistakes to glean the same valuable lesson. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we didn’t have to wait until our deathbeds to live with that kind of courage and freedom? Perhaps you and I will live out and fulfill their last wishes.