According to author Bronnie Ware who worked as end-of-life care provider, the regrets of the dying are common for many. In her book she sums up the five most common regrets as follows:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I didn’t work 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.
References to her book, which is about her life journey and the transformation that she experienced as a result of working with the dying, can be found in articles scattered about the internet. Her list of the five most common regrets and her commentary about each can be found in articles such as this one, or excerpts of the book can be read on Amazon.
Reading this list of regrets expressed by the dying has caused me to realize that I have been rather fortunately forced to address them prior to facing death. Regret number 2, I wish I hadn’t worked so hard, was resolved for me when I lost my job and in turn caused me to unwittingly address the other regrets on the list in my life as well.
In the fall of 2009, in the midst of the recession I lost my prestigious high paying corporate position. Had this not been the case I am sure I would have ended my life with the regret of having worked too hard and subsequently each of the other regrets as well. I was so busy working to maintain a lifestyle of status, privilege and acknowledgment that I pushed all the things in life that truly mattered to the back burner. Some of the most precious moments in the lives of my children were lost or reduced to a blur, falling second in an almost inconvenience to the desire I held to fulfill the obligations of my work.
At first losing my coveted position and all that it afforded me was devastating. But as I look back at it now I realize that is was a blessing in disguise. Being unemployed, I found the time to rediscover who I am and what is important to me. All the little nuances in life became a point of focus. I began to re-appreciate the beauty and awe of the natural world, the comfort and joy of friendships and family. I began trying to reconnect with my spiritual being and find meaning and purpose in life and somehow through it all I became a kinder and more compassionate person.
As I read parts of this book I also gained more perspective to which I applied to my thoughts on the meaning and purpose of this life and the possibilities of an afterlife.
Jesus implied that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us and all around us but we fail to understand what it means to be alive within it. He stated that to enter into it ( or have the presence of mind to recognize it) you must be born again, and become like a small child. For a while now I have understood his reference to being like a small child to mean being in a state where I am not jaded by life. Living a life that is not suffocated under the burdens of the transgressions committed and received, much like standing balanced in the midst of the eight worldly winds as described in Buddhism. Free of the Shadow self.
Being born again has come to be symbolic to me as the state of managing the ego so as to live within the guidance of the inner spirit, to shake off all the trappings of life and return to the state of living as emotionally unjaded as a small child. It is difficult, nearly impossible to do, and for me it requires being determined to live within the gates of grace, conscious of my actions and reactions, and willing to strive beyond my impulses in an effort to exercise grace in the face of adversity, or against the prodding of my two greatest demons, Annoyance and Inconvenience.
The foremost thoughts I have come away with after reading this book is that within the purpose of life is to live without regrets. Something obtainable for me only when I discovered how things such as grace, the shadow, the kingdom, being born again, and becoming like a small child unite with the inner spirit. In no means have I become a sainted goody-two -shoes. I still manage epic failures in my attempt to live more harmoniously with others. I have not found joy unspeakable, but I have found a contentment in life that was previously beyond my reach. Even without any spiritual inclinations I would have still found a better life living without the burdens of stress and negativity that I previously possessed, and hopefully will end my last days knowing that I rediscovered earlier rather than later all of the rich rewards of having the family and friends that I have been blessed with.
I won’t end this life without regrets, but I won’t end it with as many. And maybe if there is such a thing as reincarnation with the mental imprints of a previous life, I can live the next life not only free of regret at the end, but free of regret during.