Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware is an article that keeps finding me to teach me lessons I should not ignore. I've seen it posted by multiple friends on social media over the course of many weeks. Every time I take a look at it, I think about it for days. While many have seen it, it is the kind of article with so much wisdom in it that it should be read more than once. It was written by a hospice nurse about the people she cared for who were dying. She reminds us that all we have in the final weeks is love and relationships.
These were the most common regrets of her patients:
1) I wish I'd lived a life true to myself, not to the life others expected of me.
2) I wish I hadn't worked 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 I had let myself be happier.
For the full article and a fuller description of the previous five points, click this link:
Top Five Regrets of the Dying
While I'm glad that such loving and thoughtful people have taken time to add names and memories to my high school's memorial page, I am haunted by it. The part that haunts me is this: while I was in high school in the early part of the 1990s, I could feel the past permeating the hallways of my school. It was as if, on some level, I could feel the lingering joys and sorrows of those who had been been there long before me - maybe even the hopes or dreams of the first graduating class of my school in 1970. It seemed at times that I could feel the remnant memories of the kids who had been there in the height of all that was from the 80s - the 1984 high school kids who had seen The Breakfast Club in the theater as they lived that story in real life. It's strange the way buildings hold the feelings of those who have been inside them, archiving them for those yet to come, whispering to us in the present not to forget the past. When I look at the list on the memorial page by year of those who have died, there is an especially long list of those who graduated in the early 1980s - these people all would have been first wave Gen Xers. While I see homicide, suicide, car accidents and other things, many of the causes of death are not listed. I wonder what all went so terribly wrong. When I see the pictures of those kids who sat in the same desks I did many years before me, I am strangely relieved to finally see their faces - to finally know what they looked like, because for so long, I could feel what they had left behind - whispering to us in the present not to forget the past.
I wonder if the kids who go there now can feel the remnants of what we left behind - the 25th graduating class of the school - I wonder if the Grunge Era still floats above busy hallways, if our disappointments still hide below the bleachers in the gym, if my old locker holds the fear I used to feel when I would take my books out - realizing I wasn't going to get into a prestigious college. It makes me think so much of what we leave behind us - of how important it is to be true to our hearts in this life, of how much time we can spend worrying about things that ultimately don't matter. And I am whispering to my past self from this present moment, a message to my high school self: Don't live out what others expect of you - listen to your heart instead. It's okay to let yourself be happy. Don't work so terribly hard and worry so terribly much. Stay in touch with your true friends. Stay in touch with the true you.
Remember the regrets of the dying. Remember those who have influenced you. Be true to yourself and to those in your life. This means telling people how much you love and respect them, however those words take shape. Sometimes saying "thank you" or "I'm sorry" is in order, as I find old friends from different eras of my life and reconnect with them. Say what needs to be said. If the right moment comes, you may be able to tell someone how they hurt you -- you may be given a new opportunity to forgive or to be forgiven. Don't just assume someone doesn't want to get back in touch with you. You might be surprised. "Reach out to some people." my wise friend Laura told me a couple of years ago who I am now reconnected with because she reached out to me. "You've got nothing to lose."
(c) 2013 writing and photography by Chloe