The Guardian newspaper in the UK recently published an article titled ‘Top five regrets of the dying’, which has got me thinking about whether or not the insights from those on their deathbed could inspire and help those still alive and kicking to work out how to save the world from all the wars, anger, hurt and pain that we’re currently experiencing.
The article’s content is drawn from a book written by a palliative care nurse who spent many years caring for those on their deathbeds. The book was written following growing interest in her ‘Inspiration and Chai’ blog that recorded the dying words of those whom she was caring for. On her blog, she writes:
“People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. 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 though, every one of them.”
Nobody can argue that facing death would certainly get you thinking about your life and how you’ve lived it and it would no doubt bring out some honesty and clarity. Particularly so for older people on their deathbed, while they may have lost their youthful zeal to save the world, their impending death allows them to cut through the day-to-day goings-on of their life to the issues that lie at the core of their existence.
Interestingly the top regrets, which I’ve listed next, have nothing to do with activities people wished they’d done, objects they wished they’d bought or cleaning up the world’s environmental problems, as many today are so focused on, but rather deeper, more psychological issues that we tend to gloss over in our fast-paced, technology-driven lives. They are all personal issues that I’m sure most of us can relate to, and in an age where we are becoming desperate to save the world; I believe they shine light on some of the problems that lie at the heart of the world’s present malaise:
- I wish I’d 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’d had the courage to express my feelings
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
- I wish that I had let myself be happier
What I’ve found astonishing is that even though I am a healthy male in my mid-40s, I agree that I would like to change all these things about myself now. It’s actually relieving to realize that other people are plagued by these feelings and that we’re all locked into a treadmill of drudgery that we amazingly call life. It seems to make sense to me that if we can change our inner selves, rather than focusing on whether or not we’ve planted enough trees or picked up enough plastic bags or even driven enough fast cars, that we might have a glimmer of hope of saving the world.
So I’d like to thank those who have had the courage to express their fears and thoughts about their lives as they’ve faced death and let them know that their lives are truly appreciated. I for one am going to try and use what they learnt to make changes within myself and hopefully we can save the world and make it a better, more peaceful and loving place before too many others have to report their dying regrets.