The top five regrets of the dying

The top five regrets of the dying

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Book Author: Bronnie Ware

My thoughts and what I learned:

The 5 regrets:

Regret #1 – “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

Regret #2 – “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

Regret #3 – “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings**.”**

Regret #4 – “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Regret #5 – “I wish that I had let myself be happier.

On death:

This book has been on my TBR list for a long time. By the time, I got around to reading the book, the five regrets seemed quite familiar from the several blog posts I read and interviews I heard with Bronnie. Nevertheless, I was interested in her story.

But the stories between the lessons are what made this book worth reading.

We live in a society that keeps death hidden. So little is written about death and the last moments of the dying.

It is heart-wrenching reading the details of what happens during the last few days and even hours of her dying patients. But it is also the truth we all have to handle at some point in our lives -with our spouses, parents, friends, and maybe even kids.

As morbid as it might be, you will encounter many realities of the dying in this book, like the loss of dignity and privacy.

Like when Bronnie writes…

“When you are dying, the privacy and special moments between the spouses are gone forever when you have caregivers around your 24/7”.

The stories bring perspective to my own life and gratitude for the countless blessings that I have, like being able to communicate, do my own things, clean my bottoms- the simple things we take for granted until we can’t do them.

I’ve known death. I’ve heard people dying but never have I experienced being with someone when they took their last breath. Neither with my grandma nor with my mom was I lucky to be there to hold their hands when they breathed their last.

Reading about how Bronnie was in the room with Ruth waiting for her to say farewell with the presence of death lingering and how her spirit left her body when she took the last breath gave me chills.  It made me wonder how it was with mummy and my grandma.

This is the first book I read about people taking their last breath and how the last few hours before passing occurs. Initially, it made me anxious and teary-eyed but by the end of the book, as I read through the stories one by one the scenes became familiar.

Connection to Bronnie:

Even before I started reading the book  I felt a connection to her. Maybe because she was a singer and writer, navigating a job while looking for meaning and purpose in her life

Maybe it was her attempts to find work she loved but never seemed to move past the challenge completely.  Or is it the dread and fear, the choking and shaking when she started performing, in the beginning?

Her stories about her Gran reminded me of my grandma who I was close with growing up. She was a petite lady like Bronnie’s.

A guide:

I read this book at the end of 2021 while I found myself at the crossroads of choosing between a lifelong passion that made my heart sing and a career path I was not too happy about.  I was hoping to get some answers from this book to help me navigate this choice.

The stories helped me tremendously to navigate the decision-making process.  It gave me the courage to follow my heart and take a leap with trust.

Like they say “some books come into your life as a teacher and a guide”.

Death and the physical world:

I could relate to how after a person’s death, their physical world gets dismantled and their belongings go to new places.

My mom loved collecting artful home decor pieces. After her passing, I have brought many of her favorite pieces from India to my home in San Jose.  I wanted to have her with me -the things she picked, the stuff she cared for, polished and cleaned. I wanted to be surrounded by at least some of those pieces.

My mom’s death taught me to not get attached to material things and especially one’s home. It’s only a place where the family lives when we are all together.  Agreed I like to keep it beautiful and clean. But no handcrafted expensive Persian rugs that make me nervous every time my friends are sipping red wine. No hand-carved Italian dining table that makes me fret when my guests are not using the coasters.

A walk through the memory lane:

Ruth’s story reminded me of my grandma’s home with the big front garden filled with her favorite fruit trees and flowering plants.  There’s was so much beauty and mystery running amidst the trees as a young girl. Now that home has been demolished and replaced by a row of shopping stores. All the trees and plants have been crushed and replaced by car parking lots. But the memories linger every time I pass by, on my trip back to my hometown.

My mom and memories:

Some of the chapters left me teary-eyed thinking about my mom and her personality and her years-long struggle with her illness and her final days of 24/7 need for a caregiver. Her struggle with letting go of her privacy and the fiascos we experienced with her showering and pooping all at once. Stella reminded me very much of my mother with her hygiene and want for clean sheets. She was also a lady of style just like my mom.

The chapter on simplicity made me realize how unprepared I was when I lost my mom to illness after a long battle. And how it was not my fault how I dealt with my fears and panic and all the emotions that surfaced, emotions totally out of control.

In a way, this book reminded me of my mom’s caregiver. Since my mom passed away, she has been with my dad for more than 12 years. Throughout the pages, I felt the love with which she cared for my mom. I understood her thoughts, how selflessly she cared for my mom, how much she became a part of our family and even take care of me. How much empathy she has for me being away in a different country and taking it upon herself to care for my dad.

About our environment:

We are all products of our environment and it is up to us to choose the kind of environment we want to be in.  It can be a city scene with a hopping bar and techno music blaring thru the speakers, sliding ecstasy pills down the throat, dancing in the bars.

Or you can choose social time with good people around healthy and delicious food, with a lot of laughter and conversation, drinking tea, going for long walks and catching up with each other.

You have a choice. And you always fit right in.

You need to have the motivation and courage to change your environment and a desire to challenge yourself and improve your life.

The most affected regret:

The part that affected me the most was regret #4 about not staying in touch with friends and the loneliness. It reminded me about my dad and how he is managing alone in India. Most of his close friends are no more or they are too old. He is alone there and waits for my call every day.

I also realized, in the end, friends matter the most. Old and loyal friends are what help you carry through the crunch. I made it a resolution for next year to call up my friends more often. It is time to rekindle the old friendships I had left behind in the hustle and bustle of life.

A lesson in results-based living:

I connected with Cath who was very results-oriented and always seeking a purpose in her life. Her words “while I was searching for my purpose in life I forgot to enjoy myself along the way” resonated with me on several levels.

This book taught me to focus less on the results and more on the time along the way, to be gentle and kind to yourself, and forgive yourself for the things you are guilty of.

One final message:

The one clear message that came across from the author is to have a leap of faith and trust once intuition, as she did when she led her free life in the jeep in a caravan park amount the bushes in Australia.  And to move forward with trust knowing that it would all work out in the end. She talks about trusting in a higher power and having faith and doing what feels right for you.

Maybe we all should do this more often.  Living from one leap of faith to the next.

I love how she trusts herself and her intuition and takes leaps of faith trusting that the next steps will reveal themselves at the right time. Although I am a risk-averse person I am learning to surrender and make decisions from a place of faith and hope, especially when it comes to my job and next steps.

What really matters in the end:

In the end, your belongings are not what matters. It’s how you lived your life. If you said the things you wanted to say, lived true to your own desires not based on the expectations of others, or the society expects. Did you honor your desires? Did you have the courage to live an honest life? How much happiness you brought to those who lived. Expressing how you feel to your loved ones is important. Telling people how much you value them Is important.

Quotes from the book that caught my attention:

REGRET #1: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

  • We do more to avoid the pain than to gain pleasure.
  • Compassion starts with yourself.
  • It is time to start living as who I wanted to be one small step at a time.
  • Sometimes we don’t know until much later that a particular moment in time had changed our life’s direction.
  • We are all going to die. Rather than acknowledge it we try to hide it. If we are able to face our own death with honest acceptance before we have reached that time then we can shift our priorities well before it is too late.  Once we acknowledge that limited time is remaining we are less driven by ego and more driven by what our heart truly wants.
  • Being sick is a way to dissolve the ego.
  • Everything comes down to love or fear. Every emotion. Every action. Every thought.
  • I finally came to the conclusion that I would have to eventually work from the heart as working from the intellect has left me too empty and dissatisfied.  So I began developing my creative skills through writing, photography which led to songwriting and performing.
  • The same force that balances the flow of the tides, the force that sees the seasons come and go and creates life will also bring the opportunity to me that I needed.  My only job now is to get out of the way and stop controlling the timing and the outcome.
  • It was only through surrendering and staying present that I could allow the job opportunity to flow my way.
  • If we are all to become a product of our environment, choose the right environment- one that suits the direction of the life I want to go.
  • Success doesn’t depend on someone saying yes. It is having the courage to be you.
  • It was time to live again and to stop trying to control the outcome.
  • We are given lessons to heal not to enjoy.
  • It was my life and it was my choice how I handled what unfolded.

Regret #2 – “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

  • Just being a good person is more than enough in life.
  • Life doesn’t owe you anything. You owe yourself. So the best way to make the most out of life is to appreciate its gift of it. And choose not to be a victim.
  • There is a fine line between compassion and victim mentality.  Compassion is a healing process and comes from a place of kindness towards oneself. Playing the victim is a toxic waste of time.
  • When you are doing work that you love it doesn’t feel like work. It is simply a natural extension of who you are.
  • Sometimes you have to take some steps back to get a run-up before you jump.
  • If you really love what you do you become more open to the flow of money because you are more absorbed in your work and a happier person.
  • What we really need to do is work out what we want to do, or on what project and work toward that with focus determination and faith. Then money will attach itself to you naturally through Unimagined sources.
  • The help does come. We just have to get out of the way. And surrender.  Let go when there is no more that could be done and keep working as if it already happened.
  • Sometimes we can know things for a long time before we act on them.
  • A simple life is a happy life. Simplicity is a good choice.
  • Clearing out physical belongings always leaves a person feeling more spacious on the inside as well.
  • The lessons and stories in between are good reminders of how little time we have and how we can choose to make the most of it. And live a good life.  The stories are a good reminder that we will all die. Death is the universal truth and we shud not play like this doesn’t happen to us.
  • It is easy for us to assume that we will live forever. But life doesn’t work that way.

Regret #3 – “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings**.”**

  • We must learn to express our feelings and have the courage to do so.
  • Have the courage to express your feelings honestly. Pride is a waste of time.
  • We should never feel guilty for expressing our feelings and should never make someone feel guilty if they found the courage to do so.
  • Just because someone doesn’t respond the way you wish doesn’t mean you should regret the attempt to have expressed yourself. The reaction of others is their choice.
  • In the end, how I perceived myself is all that matters and I want to be courageous and honest.  Learning to be open was also starting to feel good.
  • In the end, only happy memories remain.
  • Courage and honesty are always rewarded.

Regret #4 – “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

  • Loneliness leaves an emptiness in the heart that can physically kill you. Loneliness isn’t the lack of people. It is the lack of understanding and acceptance.  Loneliness is the longing for the company of one who understands you.
  • There is much to learn from older people so much history is carried forward with them.
  • It is in giving that we receive.
  • The only thing that brings out the best in anyone is love.
  • It is about having the right friends for the right occasion.
  • Don’t lose touch with the friends who value you the most.  Those who accept you as who you are and who know you very well are worth more than anything in the end. Don’t let life get in the way. Just always know where to find them. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable either.
  • People make themselves old before their time.
  • Grandparents are an integral part of a child’s life and should be given plenty of opportunities to spend time with them.
  • Make time for your friends regularly. Do it for yourself even more than for them. We need our friends.
  • Allow yourself time with your friends.
  • Friends bring humor to sad times and this humor brings happiness to the dying person.  Friends are the ones capable of making you laugh through the worst of times.

Regret #5 – “I wish that I had let myself be happier.

  • Our body is where our past is stored. All of our pain and joy manifests within the body one way or the other.
  • We can be whoever we allow ourselves to be.
  • It is too easy to always want more from life but we will never have everything we want. Appreciating what we have along the way is the most important thing.
  • The freedom to be you is the greatest freedom of all.
  • Don’t worry about the little stuff. None of it matters. Only love matters.
  • Nothing good can be done alone   We need to work together.
  • Truth brings people together.
  • It is the heart that guides you to joy, not the mind. Overcoming the mind and letting go of others’ expectations allows you to hear your own heart and the courage to then follow it is where true happiness lies.
  • A happy life can be found by being brave enough to honor your own desires too.
  • The bravery needed to change your life is easier to find when you are kind to yourself.  Kindness and forgiveness are good starting points. Patience is also required as good things take time.

On singing:

  • Yet through all of these nerves and dread, something drove me. It was the acceptance that this was my life’s work and a yearning to contribute. It was also the desire to be heard.
  • If I make a mistake I laugh gently with myself and carry on. After all, performers are human too.
  • Midway singing when the negative thoughts kick in change the focus to breath observing it going in and out. It was the breath I had to focus on at that moment.
  • Remove me from the equation and see it as a time of giving to those in the audience. A simple prayer was silently said beforehand thanking the music flowing through me and bringing these people pleasure. Then I would just get out of the way and enjoy the music as much as the audience.

Tools that help to conquer the nerves while performing.

  • Meditation
  • Practise
  • Consistently putting myself out there

When you wanna follow your heart:

  1. Have a leap of faith
  2. Face your fears.
  3. Get your head out of the way.
  4. Bring yourself back to the present moment.
  5. Move forward. With trust. Live intuitively.
  6. Surrender and let go.
  7. Allow nature to weave its magic.