How do you want to be remembered?
I just got back from a funeral today, and I couldn’t help but think about my own life and how I’m living it today… is it a reflection of how I want to be remembered? Or who I want to be?
I know, deep thoughts for a Monday – but it’s true. I prayed this morning for God to lead my steps as I walk out of this chronic illness, asking, “what’s next for me?”
And I think I have some answers ….
Take a step back
Imagine you are 85 years old and in Hospice with your family coming in and out to visit you for the last time. You will not leave this bed again, and you are officially on your deathbed.
It’s at this time when we FINALLY take the time to look back on our life.
We recall great relationships, events, achievements, and experiences – but we also remember regrets. (Maybe even more so)
So let me ask you:
What things really matter to YOU at the end of the day? (Or, at the end of your life?)
5 Top Regrets of the Dying
During the pandemic, my family went through several health scares, myself included. It was a time of trial, sadness, and constant stress. I felt like we never had a break in the action!
At a particularly dark moment, someone sent me this article by Bonnie Ware, ‘The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing”. It shifted my thinking immediately – and was just what I needed during that season.
Yet, how quickly we forget our lives’ true priorities and go back to normalcy, complacency, and allow the busyness of every day to take over.
So, to be honest, it wasn’t until today, at a funeral, that I revisited this article about a nurse serving people on the deathbeds over the years. But God’s timing is always perfect…
And as it turns out, almost all dying people regret the SAME exact things. And if we know that, why don’t we do anything about it?
Let’s take a look at the list…
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
From our early years, we’re all pushed in directions that are influenced by those around us – mostly by parents and siblings. While every little kid needs a push once in a while, often, this push – or pressure– turns us into looking to others for what we want. Or what will make us happy?
For example, most of us are taught that we need to go the traditional, responsible life path –
College => Secure Job => Married => Kids =>
I know I did! And we never stop to ask, what is it that I actually want?
And even if we take the time to understand our deepest feelings and needs, we don’t have the courage to stand up for our dreams and passions. It’s just easier to keep up the facade and meet the expectations (we think) are placed on us.
If we constantly try and meet the expectations of other people in our life, it’s a surefire way to feel unfulfilled (and maybe even resentful- ouch!)
So, the most important questions you can ask yourself right now include:
What do I want for my life?
What are my true passions?
What are some of my dreams?
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
Let me be the first to tell you to take a friggin break, my friend!
I know, I get it. Working hard is addictive – especially for us achievement types. But burnout is a VERY real thing that often creeps us when we’re not looking.
Back in 2011, I got some great advice (although I didn’t think so at the time!) from a Dallas Neurologist I was seeing for chronic migraines. He said, “Jules stress is a part of everyones life. We gotta learn to take a break from it”
He went on to say that there will always be another email to answer, another mile to run, and another errand to complete.
Basically, the work is never over unless you decide it’s over.
Memories and experiences are worth more than a few extra dollars in the bank account or more notches on our belt.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
I like to think of myself as someone who is in touch with my feelings – I feel deep and love big.
This is why I understand this point so well… Yet, with the big emotions that pound through my body, I still struggle to express my feelings to those around me.
I’m nervous I’ll be judged or ridiculed
I don’t want to rock the boat and/or upset anyone (I hate conflict!)
I don’t want to feel less than
But the worst thing we can do is ASSUME our loved ones should know what we’re feeling, thinking, or needing. We need to use our words!
So tonight, tell your loved ones just how much you care for them – share how they’ve impacted your life and how proud you are to be their friend/partner.
Because one day you might regret that you didn’t say I love you enough…
(I love you, Paul.)
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Losing touch with good ole friends sucks a big one! But we’re all guilty of falling apart and away from those who know and love us most. (And the pandemic didn’t do us any favors to help foster connections!)
But use this opportunity right now (not at the next funeral or your deathbed!) to reach out to that dear friend you’ve lost touch with… I promise they want to hear from you!
I’m not sure why, but somehow as more and more time goes by, it gets harder to reach out… And, we think, “It’s their turn to call me – I’ve texted her a bunch” – but true friends don’t keep score. Remember that.
You never know who needs your call and your friendship today. Go ahead, pick up the phone…
5. I wish I had let myself be happier
I’m not sure why this is so hard for all of us today, but I know I’m guilty of delaying happiness too. We think,
“Once I get that promotion, then I’ll be happy.”
“After I break 3:30 in the marathon, I’ll be happy”
But life doesn’t work like that… We need to learn how to be happy TODAY, not some predetermined date or time in the future.
No matter what we have (or have not) achieved, we can still find fulfillment, joy, and happiness.
I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts last week, Jay Shetty. He had one of the researchers from the largest known study on happiness on his podcast.
And it turns out the biggest determiner if we are happy in life comes down to deep connection & relationships with friends, family and community. (It has nothing to do with achievements, bank accounts, or smarts.)
I know all too well how it feels to delay happiness – battling chronic illness for several years made me feel stuck and like my life (and happiness) were on hold.
Most of the time, we already know what gives us deep inner peace and happiness; we just need to allow it in…
What’s that for you?
The Wrap – 5 Regrets
When we stop and think about it, having a fulfilled life is about LIVING each day – not delayed happiness. It’s about deep, meaningful relationships and connections. It’s about prioritizing what makes us tick and expressing our thoughts, emotions, and needs…
Today’s funeral got me thinking… many of us are probably chasing the wrong things.
I left the service thinking that I want to have a marriage that’s deep and connected, I want to be a cool mom for my future kids and love them unconditionally (no matter what or who they choose to be), and I really need to give my folks and siblings a call more often…
We only regret the things we didn’t follow through on…
so we can all take these tips from the dying to learn to truly live.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”— Mark Twain