Even as I wrote my blog a while back wishing Jack Layton well I had a feeling his time would be limited. He just looked so ill. Regardless of his politics, he fought for what he thought was right and as an interview subject, he was smart and easy to talk to.
Jack would have known for a while that he wasn’t going to win this fight and in his open letter to Canadians he was as open and honest as anyone has ever been about the end of one’s life. If you weren’t moved by these words, I don’t want to know you: “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”
Jack lived a life that was full and authentic. It would appear that he had no regrets. But many people with terminal illnesses aren’t as fortunate. A woman named Bronnie Ware, who works with the dying, compiled a list of the top five regrets her patients verbalized to her. This list is a good reminder about what’s important; people and love, basically. Here are the most often repeated regrets her patients had while on their deathbeds.
1. I wish I had had the courage to be my true self, not what people expected of me.
Funny, but we can spot a person who is living this way from a mile off. But only they can change themselves. Been there. The true self is that thought you have that’s immediately squashed by a negative inner voice that tells you it’s not possible or you don’t deserve it.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
I can imagine this regret coming from someone who doesn’t like their job or sees it only as a means to an end. How does that saying go? Do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.
3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.
Apparently the people who said this meant positive feelings (love, compassion) and so-called negative ones like anger. Feelings were suppressed to keep the peace.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Not all friendships are meant to last a lifetime and some fall by the wayside for good reasons. Others ebb and flow and when the true friend comes back into your life it’s like no time has passed at all. It’s a shame when friends drift apart and they think about getting in touch but never do. “Too late” does eventually arrive.
5. I wish I had let myself be happier.
Yup, that’s the secret to happiness. It is a choice. Everybody has crap and miserable stuff that happens to them. You think more money would make you happy? Ask multi-millionaire John Travolta how happy he was when his teenage son died after a seizure. Bad stuff happens all around, all the time. It’s how you process it and how you choose to handle it that will decide whether you are happy. As the great Sheryl Crow sings, It’s not getting what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.