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Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware

There is a new book getting attention. It’s called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware.

Ware, a former palliative care nurse, witnessed countless moments of clarity and emotional epiphany in dying patients, and realized there were frequent themes that often came up when the patients expressed regret or wished they had done certain things in life differently. Having seen them again and again, she wrote first a blog post, and then a book, about the themes most often expressed.

The top five regrets, according to Ware, were:

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

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

All of it seems to point to the theme of authenticity and an emphasis on following one’s own heart and instincts.

It’s funny, though – not to criticize the book (which I haven’t read, and may well be poignant and meaningful and excellent), but just from what I’ve read about it, it seems so obvious, and yet, so difficult to actually achieve in day-to-day life. Take #2 for instance – who doesn’t wish they didn’t work so hard, even now, a long (hopefully) way from our deathbed? I think we are all well aware that the quality time in our lives is more likely the time we spend with our friends and family, or time spent creating, or time spent outside in nature and all that good stuff, but the day to day reality of our society necessitates the paying of rent or mortgage and all that good stuff. It always seems to me that when we have a near-death experience or some extremely shocking, traumatic event, that the urge to “live every day to the fullest” and make every interaction meaningful and memorable as if it might be the last is highly prevalent – but not sustainable. It doesn’t seem realistic or possible to me. Life (which, granted, could be snuffed out at any moment) must still have room for the mundane, the unimportant and unmemorable. We have to go to work, and work hard, and wash dishes and do homework. There’s some beauty in some of the boring minutiae, too, if you ask me – I can’t help feeling that when I’m dying, I’ll look back and appreciate every one of the banal, unremarkable little moments of my life, and be grateful for them all. I guess we’ll see.

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