Horne: Learn from the regrets of the dying

Confronting your own mortality opens a door to looking at your life in a new way.

To be in the presence of someone who is terminally ill or approaching the final days of their life through the natural process of aging is a valuable opportunity to share in the epiphanies that facing death can bring to someone.

Confronting your own mortality opens a door to looking at your life in a new way.

Old grudges or judgments you have held of yourself, focusing on things that are really not that important, all take a back seat when the days that you have to share with those you love have been given a time limit.

Suddenly, it is easier to see the bigger picture and let go of things that you have been clenching on to too tightly in your being.

Things that are not really serving you or the people around you as you live in guilt from the past or fear of the future.

Recognizing that all any of us have is the present moment seems easy enough to acknowledge, but not so easy to practice.

As I cared for my own mom in her final year of life, I sat and listened to her express regrets that she had about the past —the mistakes, missed opportunities and so on that she recognized looking back on her life.

It was a healing time for her and held many ‘aha’ moments for myself.

The position she was in of coming to the end of her life did not hold the possibility to go back and “do it differently.”

However, I could see that it held the fertile ground of coming to forgiveness of herself and others, by working it through in her storytelling to me and to other loved ones who sat at her bedside and listened.

The gift of this sharing time was that it made me think about my own life and where I might want to change some things so that when I came to the end of my time here on Earth, my story would be one that I could be proud of and content with.

Bonnie Ware, a hospice nurse, has written about the journey many of her patients experienced coming to find peace before they passed away in her book, Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.

She says, “The wisdom that is the fabric of the lessons we learn from regrets expressed of the dying is that we only live once, and we must make the most of the life we have.”

This can help us to age without harbouring disappointments and embrace more joy, peace, vulnerability and acceptance into our lives.

The five main regrets Ware writes about are:

• 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.

As we each begin a new year, it is a time when many of us pause from our habitual forms of behaviour and reflect on what is honestly going on in our lives—the good, the bad and the ugly.

We can take the opportunity to recognize the habits and ways of thinking that prevent us from being happy, especially in our interactions within our relationships with others.

We can stop living our lives always hoping for the next big thing and start living in the present moment.

In an interview between the Atlantic Magazine and 101 year-old Marian Cannon Schlesinger, they talked about the importance of seeking your bliss.

Schlesinger said: “Early on, I decided being a painter was what I wanted to be, but I wanted to be a lot of other things too.  I wanted to write. I wanted to play tennis. I wanted to have a lot of friends. I wanted to have a lot of beaus.

“I think I’ve been very lucky, but I think that I’ve made some of it for myself. I never gave up. I wanted it all in other words, and I think I really almost got it all too.”

I started the year of 2015 taking myself through a process called The Five Wishes.

You begin by imagining yourself on your deathbed, whether it is this month or 30 years from now, and someone is asking you the question: “Was your life a complete success?”

Upon visualizing your life, you first define five things you wish you had done more of to enhance a sense of fulfillment in your life.

After describing these things, you turn each “wish” around into a positive present-tense goal from which you can then begin to create action steps to achieve, day by day, in your life right now.

I am going to include exploration of the Five Wishes process with participants in a weekend workshop entitled “The Journey To Self Through Relationships” to be held Jan. 24 and 25.

Call 250-863-9577 for more information if you want to take a new year’s step into seeking more bliss.

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