Bronnie Ware is a former hospice nurse in Australia who has written a book about her experiences caring for those who are in their last weeks of life. The book is entitled The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. In it, she shares (you guessed it) the most often-heard regrets that people opened up to her about in their final days. Here they are, along with some commentary from me:
- I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Ware says that this was the most common regret of all. As people came to the end of their lives, they looked back and wished they had followed their hearts and pursued their dreams. So often fear gets in our way and we never take that step of faith into the adventure that God has for us. I'm reminded of when Jesus came up to the disciples on the Sea of Galilee walking on the water. There was a storm and the disciples were afraid. Look what happens next: "Don't be afraid," Jesus said. "Take courage. I am here!" Then Peter called to him, "Lord, if it's really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water." "Yes, come," Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. How often have we missed the exhilaration, the joy, the dream of walking on water because we did not have the courage to get out of the boat? (I highly recommend John Ortberg's book on this subject).
- I wish I didn't work so hard. This came from every male patient Ware cared for, as well as some of the women. It's a powerful reminder to us all that work should not define us or become the be-all and end-all of our existence. Balance is so key in life, and too many people make the mistake of thinking more work and more money leads to more happiness. My first boss told me early in my ministry, "Make sure you take time for your family. There will always be work to do, but you only have one chance to watch your kids grow up." I have always remembered that and greatly appreciated it (thank you, Rev. David Wilson).
- I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings. This regret has to do with honesty and wanting to "keep the peace" instead of making feelings known. Ware says that many end up with bitterness and resentment after a lifetime of suppressing their feelings instead of, as the apostle Paul says, speaking the truth in love.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. "There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort they deserved," writes Ware. We were created to be in relationship, and walking this journey of life is too difficult to do it alone. We all need people around us who offer unconditional love, companionship, a listening ear and an encouraging word. I believe the church should be a place where those type of friendships are nurtured, a place where you can love and be loved, care for and be cared for, forgive and be forgiven.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier. This last one was surprising to me, as I had never given much thought to someone letting themselves be happy. The more I think about it, however, the more I can see this being an issue. Jesus reminds us in Luke 12, "life is not measured by how much you own...A person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God. That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life...Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need."
Thanks to the 2007 movie, we're now all familiar with the term Bucket List. This book is just another encouragement to really give some thought to what's on yours and how you're going about making sure there are no regrets. May God guide you as you seek to live a life of fulfillment in Him.