Deathbed Regrets

Missing chocolate chip cookie.

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A friend recently pointed me to an article written by a hospice nurse.  This nurse spent her career working with people who were dying, beyond recovery, and aware of it.   Her job, primarily, was to provide comfort, whether that be physical or emotional.

During her conversations, she found several themes when her patients discussed their regrets and she lists the 5 most common regrets in her article.

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

I don’t see this one being an issue for me.   While I did buy in to a standard life template (college, wife, kids, suburbs, office, etc.), I am me.  I am undeniably me.

I’d be delusional to think that I wasn’t a bit…different.   I see things differently than a lot of other people, I react differently, and I’m vocal about it.  That sometimes makes it hard to get close to me.  I doubt anyone who is close to me would argue with that.

I also tend to do things.  Most people talk about doing things, I try to make them happen.   “I wish I were out of debt”, “Honey, I want to start a business”, “Let’s drop 40 pounds this year”, or “I want to build a trebuchet”.   I think I know why my wife gets nervous when I say “I have an idea”.

I may not be running anyone else’s script, but at the end of the day, I’d regret not doing things more than I’d regret trying them.

I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This one is a personal struggle for me.   I’m scared of missing my children grow up.   I hate the idea of looking back and finding my children as adults, with few memories of how they got there.

At the same time, I’ve got a pile of debt I need to get rid of before I can dial back too far.    I could quit my job tomorrow, but that wouldn’t be providing a good life for them.

My worry, and the worry of some people close to me, is that, once the debt is gone, I won’t be able to let go of my extreme work hours, even though I’m working so hard now to be able to work less later.   “Later”, in this case, means a couple of years, not retirement.

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

Ugh.  Feelings.  If this is a standard deathbed regret, I’m screwed.   My loved ones know I love them, but other than that, I’m happy to be in control of myself.

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

I do.  It’s not always close contact, but it is contact.

I’m of the opinion that life’s too short to spend time with people you dislike, so some people have been relegated to the past.   My friends, my family, my loved ones are a part of my life, even if it’s occasionally months between emails or years between visits.

I wish that I had let myself be happier.

I think I do pretty well on this front, too.   Happiness is a choice.   I could worry about all of the things that aren’t perfect, or I could enjoy the things I have.  I choose to enjoy what I’ve got, even while trying to improve the rest.

In the words of Denis Leary : “Happiness comes in small doses folks. It’s a cigarette, or a chocolate cookie, or a five second orgasm. That’s it, ok! [You] eat the cookie, you smoke the butt, you go to sleep, you get up in the morning and go to…work, ok!? That is it!”

Happiness isn’t a hobby farm, a new job, or a dream vacation.   Happiness is a date with my wife, or cuddling with my kids to Saturday morning cartoons, or taking my son to the range.

Happiness is the things I’m doing now, not the dreams I’m hoping for someday.

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    1. If you actually build a trebuchet, I want pictures.

      • When my son was 3, my wife went out of state for a bachelorette party.

        While she was gone, we built a 5 foot(measured at the axle) trebuchet.

        She wasn’t impressed to see it in the driveway. 🙂

    2. Looking at this list, I think my top regret would be staying in contact with friends and family. I actually realized this late last year, though, and my New Year’s resolution is to call people more often.

    3. We are like you, working like crazy to get out of debt. My husband just talked to me about working too much last weekend. Like you, he thinks I won’t stop after the debt is gone. While I am a hardworker, I don’t generally work as much as I am now, and I don’t think I will keep this insane schedule. I am just extremely motivated now, which I can see you are too. I want to enjoy watching my kids grow up, but I will be better able to do that when the debt, and the stress from the debt, is gone.

    4. I would definitely regret putting so many hours for earning more money and not being with near ones. very touchy article

    5. This list is full of the same things I don’t want to be saying on my death bed. I don’t want to have any regrets, or at least a minimal amount. Maxing out my life and enjoying each day is something I have really been focusing on lately. Every day I get to live is a gift so I am trying to do better at appreciating that.

    6. man, that is an awesome post – I hope that I dont end up living with regrets! Im working on identifying my dreams and saving for the now, so hopefully I can make them reality. Nice work on the trebuchet, too.

    7. Great post. I also struggle to find a balance between work and family. I know of a few people who have been able to retire early but at the expense of not spending a lot of time with their kids when their kids were little. I wish there was an easier way to do the reverse- take some time when the kiddos are young and then get back into the work force.
      Thanks for the reminder of what is important in life!


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