A palliative nurse who has counseled the dying during their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have as we near the end of our lives. And among the top few regrets, from men in particular, is ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’. Here are the top five regrets of the dying:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
“This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even half their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.”
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses from the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
“Often they would not truly realize the full benefit of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and commitment they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to themselves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh freely.”
As I read this small snippet, I was reminded of a passage in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (5.5.5), which discusses what is really worth regretting. “As long as one does not inquire about the spiritual values of life, one is defeated and subjected to miseries arising from ignorance.”
How true indeed!
These patients whose lives were terminated did not know that since they were leaving their bodies regretting their material existence, they would have to surely accept another material body. And in that new body they will simply continue the same process of regretting. The Vedas explain: Our minds get colored with the particular activity that we engage in. As long as the mind is impure, our consciousness is unclear and as long as one is absorbed in fruitive activity, one has to accept a material body.
Unless one understands the self and its activities, one has to be considered to be in material bondage. The real self is distinguished from the body as a car is distinguished from its owner. This self or atma is a part of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Persons whose lives are purified by performing devotional service unto Lord Krishna do NOT have any regrets when leaving their material bodies, because they know that death opens a door leading to a life of eternity, bliss and knowledge.