I have a 90 year old friend, Tom, who’s in poor health. Yesterday, over a cup of tea, he took my hand and said, ‘Don’t end up like this. Don’t get to my age and have regrets. I know you’ve got MS, but get yourself out there.’
I asked him what he regretted, what did he wish he had done differently? He thought for a moment before saying he would have worked less, been happier and kept nothing for ‘best’.
I went home deep in thought. On the internet, I found an excellent blog, Inspiration and Chai, written by a palliative nurse, Bronnie Ware, who cared for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. Her observations have been collated in a book, ‘The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.’
I expected to be depressed after reading them, but instead I felt motivated to keep on improving my life and learn from the wisdom of others who have gone before. The five most common regrets 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 ‘d stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
The last point for me was the most interesting. Bronnie Ware writes that many people did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed in old patterns and habits and the fear of change had them pretending to others, and themselves, that they were happy.
I want to live a fulfilled life. I have enough regrets already, so maybe I should just choose to be happier. Chase the dreams, make mistakes and pick myself back up again. At least I can say I tried. Having MS has brought clarity and a sharp focus to my life. So, thank you, Tom, for giving me a much-needed push in the right direction.