Regrets of the Dying: Being True to Living

This is probably not the best time for me to write this blog since I just spent the last several hours at Harbor—UCLA County Medical Center in Torrance, California trying to find out about the status of a loved one’s health. However, waiting in the Coronary Care Unit of the hospital gave me too much time to reflect on my own life and how I have been living it. As I sat in the waiting room watching a Spanish novella on their tv set, I found my thoughts wandering to questions about what parting memories I’d want to leave with my family, friends, and loved ones, as well as colleagues, fellow authors, and readers/fans of my work. Sadly, as many of the wonderful things I believe they would say about me, I also found myself noting the regrets I currently have over the hopes, dreams, and goals I still want to accomplish.

While I am surely not the first to feel this way because of a loved one suddenly falling ill, I do not want to be among those statistics who realize too late that there were more regrets than experiences lived. I started thinking about how those who are dying may feel when they realize they are not going to make it through to another day. During my college training to become a counselor, I learned that feelings of regret are not uncommon for those who are dying, and for those who experience grief. In a February 2012 article by Susie Steiner for The Guardian, Steiner listed five top regrets that people experience (see article at http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/01/top-five-regrets-of-the-dying). These five regrets are as follows:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

As I read the list, it saddened me to see that most, if not all, of these regrets can be changed into realities. In the fourth volume of The Last Prophet: Uriel’s Light, one of the characters is doing just that – making sure the remainder of her life is not full of regrets. The character in question, Sheila Copper, is given the opportunity to make manifest those aspects of her life that would have been regrets and turn them instead into experiences she shares with the ones closest to her heart. It is an example many should emulate and strive to achieve. To have the knowledge of your finite time, and to be given that opportunity to live life as your true self, to work for a purpose, to express one’s feelings courageously, to keep in contact with those we love, and to choose happiness… these are all gifts we are given each day and should seize the opportunity to truly act on these.

I mentioned my loved one is in the hospital, but I forgot to mention that it is my dad. This Mother’s Day weekend will be spent at his bedside comforting him both physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. I don’t see this as a moment to feel regret, but an opportunity to give to him what it is he needs most—love from his only daughter through strength, perseverance, and prayers. He taught me to be an upright, hardworking, and faithful woman, and he had no regrets for being the example of what a man should be to me. I will have no regrets staying by his hospital bedside this weekend until this health struggle has passed.

What is your greatest regret so far? AND what do you hope to achieve or change before dying? Please comment in the space provided.

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