2013 ended on a sad note…my partner’s father passed away, after fighting cancer for the past four years. Fortunately, we were able to spend the holidays and his birthday with him, and she was able to say all the things she wanted to tell him, knowing that the end was likely near.
This experience has made me think about how important it is to do the things that really matter to us…whatever they may be…in the time we have on this earth. I was inspired by the writings of a nurse named Bronnie Ware who spent many years providing palliative care to the dying. Among her patients, there were some common themes regarding the things they wished they’d done differently in their lives:
- A wish that they’d had the courage to live a life true to themselves, and not the life others expected of them.
- A wish that they hadn’t spent so much time working.
- A wish that they’d had the courage to express their feelings.
- A wish that they had stayed in touch with their friends.
- A wish that they had let themselves be happier.
I also came across an essay by a hospice chaplain, Kerry Egan, and what she talks about when she goes to counsel the dying. What do you suppose it is? Family. Her patients talk about their sons and daughters, partners and spouses, mothers and daughters, their family of friends, all the people they have loved (or didn’t love well), and who have shown them love (or withheld it), throughout their lives. She argues that the meaning of the human experience is to learn how to love, and also how to forgive.
So my wish for all of us, as we head into a new year, is that we might find ways to be true to ourselves, spend time with the people we love, say what we really want to say, keep in touch with our friends and family, forgive those who have hurt us, and let ourselves be happy!