Before You Die: Regrets of the Dying

LutheranLadies.comAn interesting list appeared while I was doing research for the next Lutheran Ladies Circle novel. It comes from a palliative nurse, Bronnie Ware, as she worked with folks who were catching the bus to the next world.


That makes sense.  Death doesn’t wait until we’ve watered the plants, put the mail on vacation-hold, and paid all the bills. It comes, when it’s time. And it’s not necessarily synced with our personal schedule.

Some Regrets of the Dying…

*)” I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
This was one of the top regrets, and easy to see why.  We worry about what others will think of us and then we make decisions based on fear of their judgement.   Later….we ask ourselves, “Why did I do that?” or promise, “I’ll be smarter next time.”  And sometimes we are…if we don’t run out of time.

*)” I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
Most  folks don’t say, “I wish I would’ve done more laundry and washed more dishes.” However, constant work would NOT have been my ol’ German grandpa ‘s regret. He was a hard-driving man. Every moment (besides sleeping and eating) had to be spent productively.   He said it kept away his fear of being hungry. I suppose, not every person has the same regrets. Granddad was certainly an exception to this one. At a very old age, he  toppled to a stop  while pitching hay  onto a wagon.  His heart thumped to a halt a few moments afterward and I bet his last thought was,” I wish I could’ve finished getting the hay in.”

*) “Why didn’t I stay in touch with my friends?”
We let go of friends for so many easy reasons.  Our interests don’t run in the same circles anymore. Our politics don’t match. Our personalities don’t match.  We get busy. Soon friends (and sometimes relatives) are relegated to the Once-A-Year Christmas card.   And then the end nears, and the ghosts of those old forgotten relationships haunt the heart.

*) “I wish I’d let myself be happier.”
Hindsight  is twenty/twenty they say.  How many times have worries curled around my feet like a slinking black cat, tripping me—only to end up never happening and thus wasting uncounted hours of cursing the cat?

When standing at the end and looking back…

  • It’s easier to see the line-up of catastrophes that never appeared
  • Or how life seemed to work out, even when problems fell.
  • And then there are even more regrets for wasting that time and encouraging early-appearing  white hairs.

My research was to gain insight into a outspoken character, Aunt Ula, who takes off on a wild trip, gathering  the pieces of her past. But as I read the list, I found myself making new rules for my own life.

REGRET  can be a strong motivation for CHANGE.

There’s a joke that goes: How many Lutherans does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: We don’t know.  We don’t like change.

Perhaps it’s the same for Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Baptists and others. But hope still beckons. Sunrises, kindnesses…even the cute but irritating cat are reminders not to allow the past to dictate NOW.  We remember that we live in a state of forgiven grace—warts and all. We make adjustments and move forward.

Because even in the last twilight of life, we’re all still moving forward.

Twilight near dresdenNote:  OKAY, Okay. I received you emails. I turned the comments back on. It’s just that I know I can’t always get back to reply to every comment. But some of you emailed me. Your admonitions made me snort root beer out my nose at the predicament I put all of you in by tethering your talk-back . I’m sorry. Please don’t take offense if I don’t reply to every comment.

Oh…never mind. You can be as offended as you want. I’m changing so I can avoid Regret #1 above.  “Stop worrying what other people will think.”
AND…..Regret #3:  Losing touch with friends.

Let ‘er rip. Tater chips. Comment to your heart’s content. I’ve missed you.

AND….please, please come back and check the progress bar at the top, right-hand side. I’m sequestered at the keyboard this month knocking out the initial draft of Book 3 in 30 days. (National Write A Novel Month). I could use your support or a swift kick in the patoot every now and then. Thanks.

(List source: The Top Five Regrets of Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departed,  Photos: clock-Marsmet546  , man-Shanoor Habib, cat-Doug88888, Sunset-Wikipedia )

10 thoughts on “Before You Die: Regrets of the Dying

  1. Hi there 🙂

    I have been MIA myself. Too many life changes happened, including quite a few ‘promotions’. The most recent was this past week. Those who waited with our dear departed noted ” I could not have written a better ending chapter”… I very rarely hear the ending experience expressed that way.

    For those of us who know Christ, the ending is just the beginning of something new with Him. I want my time here to count for something, but if it’s not something that will glorify Him, then I don’t care to have it.

    All the best with your writing. I’ve written quite a few pieces (in my head), and from the looks of things, it will be a while before I get them on paper. lolol


  2. Welcome back. I have missed you. Happy (and productive)writing. This month and every month.
    Some of these regrets are familiar – allowing myself to be me. Still a work in progress.
    And no, I don’t expect on my deathbed to be mourning that the housework and the ironing (and the weeding) are not complete. I do hope I get to finish reading my last book though.

  3. Yes, I have thought a lot about how we end our lives. My thought usually hover over wondering if anyone would really miss me or would I soon be forgotten, whether i made a difference in anyone’s life or touched anyone in a memorable way, or whether I changed anyone’s life for the better. I do have a bucket list of things I would like to do, but those are minor things–like going to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in Canada.
    The thought of dying scares me though.

    • Dying is not a frightening thing. Some time ago, I had an allergic reaction to a medication and was slipping into a coma when The Squire found me. It was very peaceful, and I was rather startled to discover I wasn’t at all afraid. If it hadn’t been that I knew The Squire would be upset, I’d have been perfectly happy to slip away. When Dick Cheney had one of his heart attacks, he said he felt the same way; “If this is dying, it isn’t too bad.”

      Your remark that you wonder if you’ve made a difference really strikes a chord with me. My mother was a dour person, to put it mildly, and she often told me that when I put my hand in a bucket of water, no matter how much I slashed around, when I took out my hand, the mark that was left would be how much difference I would make in this world. Talk about a “why bother” attitude!

      • Interesting experience you’ve shared about dying. But I’m glad you’re back and now you’ve shared these bits of comfort and pondering. Thank you. It was C.S. Lewis who said, (paraphrased): “With each interaction we are nudging each other toward “immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” I’d say every interaction is more than a splash in a bucket.

    • I did I writing exercise on: Why does it matter if anyone remembers you after you’re gone? As you say, it was interesting thing to dig into. What do we want a statue? A plaque on a wall? But as for making a difference, oh Rose. You’ve already made a difference in so many lives. Mine is one of them.

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