Five common deathbed regrets


By Gregg Heid

Special to The PREVIEW

“You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” — James 4:14.

Most of my friends are in their 60s or 70s. We talk a lot about how fast time flies. Being on the downward side of life’s bell curve of time, energy and financial gain, we need to make what is left count. We don’t want any regrets when our time is up.

Here are the five most common deathbed regrets according to nurses (Bonnie Ware) and hospice personnel who work with the dying. The following is my summary and commentary on those findings.

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. When people see that their life is almost over, it is easy to realize how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most of these shattered dreams were due to personal choices and decisions.

2. I wish I hadn’t spent so much time working. This was especially true of men who regretted so much time spent at the office or job site missing their children’s youth and wife’s partnership. Providing for one’s family is honorable, but when it becomes an obsession, it robs the family of happy memories and joy.

3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings. We suppress our feelings to keep the peace with others or because we think our feelings are not important. Say what you mean and mean what you say in a charitable fashion; you’ll sleep better at night.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Everyone misses their friends, especially when they realize they might not see them again. With the help of social media, this regret has become easier to overcome. But how many of us take time to reach out to old friends, whether online, phone calls or a hand written note (gasp!)? I can honestly say how much it meant when a dear friend sent a card on my birthday. Or when an old high school teammate called to offer sympathy for my recent injury. A little outreach goes a long way.

5. I wish I had let myself be happier. People have a tendency to stay stuck in old patterns and habits.

“The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and themselves, they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh and have silliness in their life again.”

“Health brings a freedom very few realize until they no longer have it.”

For those of us still breathing, what can we do to avoid these regrets so we would be pleased with the eulogy at our funeral and hear the words of our Heavenly Father, “Well done my good and faithful servant”? We need to write down our goals and aspirations. Enter into the “classroom of silence.” Discover our deepest desires and ask God what He wants us to do with them for the remainder of our lives.

If you tend to work too much, plan dates with your spouse and set up family outings and fun days. Put them on your calendar and follow through. Your family will love you for it.

If you have a hard time expressing your thoughts and feelings, develop a prayer to bring you into God’s presence and boost your confidence. Something like, “Jesus, I trust in You,” or, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” or simply, “Be with me, Lord.” Knowing you’re not alone builds courage.

If during your time in the classroom of silence, a friend comes to mind, pray for that person, send an email, a Facebook post or a hand-written note (gasp!). When possible, take the opportunity to visit in person.

Why put on the sad face? We are made in the image and likeness of God, which means we have the ability to create new things and achieve higher results for ourselves. Make something or do something for yourself or someone else and you will get an emotional boost.

Thankfulness initiates happiness, joy comes from the Lord. If you’re having a bad day, think of a happy time in your life’s past or something you’re looking forward to; dwell on that. I put myself in a good mood by seeing myself with my 8-month-old granddaughter or shoveling my neighbor’s driveway.

As the old saying goes, “The past is history, the future is a mystery, the present is a gift, so let’s open it and enjoy.”