Sometime ago when I was a teenager and making my life plan one of the important decisions I made was to live in such a way as to have as few regrets as possible. Every decision I made would be made with as much information as I could garner at that time. If I made any impulse decisions, I would agree with myself there would be no second guessing them later. By and large, I have lived my life following that dictum. There have been very few “coulda, woulda, shouldas”. It has led to the avoidance of much grief.
I bring this up here because of something I recently read written by Dr. Richard Wagner, a former priest I had the pleasure of working with many years ago on the subject of preparing for death. He ran San Francisco workshops for those with terminal illnesses and invited informative speakers on subjects vital to the dying – a lawyer to deal with last wishes and wills, a doctor or nurse to teach what happens when the body dies, and me. I dealt with the issue of leaving unfinished business with loved ones – things like asking forgiveness or saying “I love you.” It was a most moving and edifying several weeks for me. Ever since I have endorsed the idea of conscious death with dignity.
He has moved to Seattle but I still follow his work, both as a sexologist and an endorser of conscious death, on Facebook. Recently he posted about the work of a palliative care nurse of his acquaintance. As I understand it, the nurse did a survey over many years about the regrets those who were dying expressed.
The following sums them up:
1) I wish I pursued my dreams and aspirations, and not the life others expected of me
2) I wish I didn’t work so hard