The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Dying regrets

with 3 comments

David Murray points us to a list compiled by Bronnie Ware, a palliative care expert, of the five most common regrets expressed by dying people:

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

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard (expressed by every male patient)

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

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

It is a list that rather reveals the fears with which we live. I recall words from the deathbed of Major-General Sir Henry Havelock (not because I was there, you understand): “I have for forty years so ruled my life that when death came I might face it without fear.” If that will be so for us, alongside of gospel hope expressed in a life of righteousness, we would do well to consider whether or not we are living in fear.

Written by Jeremy Walker

Saturday 18 June 2011 at 09:10

Posted in Christian living

Tagged with ,

3 Responses

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  1. I saw this list at its source last week and I didn’t think it was something that would really be helpful to Christians, as most of the points struck me as largely selfish in nature. Here were my thoughts on each point:

    1. While this wish isn’t necessarily bad, I doesn’t take into account the providence of God. I would suspect that for most people “true to myself” doesn’t mean “fulfilling my God-ordained responsibilities to the best of my ability, with the talents that he’s given me”…

    2. If they were working hard just to acquire more possessions for themselves then this would be a righteous wish, but at least here in America (and I suspect most of the modern world) most people would do well to spend a lot less time in leisure and a lot more time serving God & others. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Unless I’m mistaken, most of us aren’t in danger of working too hard for the Kingdom of God…

    3. According to Proverbs, it’s usually a good thing to keep your feelings to yourself, unless you’re certain that those feelings are in accordance to the word and laws of God.

    4. This is probably the only point that isn’t un-Biblical, as staying in touch with friends is generally a good thing. However, if staying in touch and involved with friends causes you to neglect family or church responsibilities and relationships, that is NOT a good thing. Also, if by necessity or circumstance we do drift out of touch with some friends, then we should be comforted by the hope that we will see all of our true friends in Christ for eternity in the new heavens and the new earth.

    5. In my experience it’s pretty rare that people actually hold themselves back from being happy, so perhaps this point isn’t worded very well – “I wish that I had MADE myself happier” is probably a more accurate way to put it. Either way, as the child’s hymn says “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey!”. I doubt that most of the people that this palliative care expert observed were wishing that they had followed Jesus more faithfully and thereby made themselves happier.

    I saw this list as a very clear demonstration of the emptiness experienced by people who live and die far apart from the salvation that can be found in Christ. The only way that I could sympathize with this list would be if I were to die completely ignorant of the Gospel and God’s demands upon my life.

    I would love to hear other’s thoughts on this list, especially if they are contrary to my own.

    Alex

    Sunday 19 June 2011 at 21:28

    • Thanks, Alex. Like you, I don’t think that they simply translate into a Christian way of thinking and looking, but I think I can interpret them fairly positively in terms of the fear of God rather than the fear of man. So:

      1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Or, I wish I had lived coram Deo rather than be moulded and governed by the opinions and expectations of mere men.

      2. I wish I didn’t work so hard (expressed by every male patient). Or, I wish I had allowed my priorities to be governed more by the Word of God than driven along by the pressing demands of the immediate things of this world..

      3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. Or, I should have spoken what was true, more graciously and more honestly. I would say that the Proverbs direct us toward true and controlled speech, rather than false and careless speech.

      4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Or, I wish I had better invested in those opportunities to do and receive good that the Lord gave to me, especially within the community of the faithful.

      5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. Or, er . . . yup, I had some issues with this one, too! But, I think if I more readily grasped the grace of God in Christ toward me, I should be more joyful.

      Now, I am not for one moment suggesting that this is how they are being meant and/or interpreted. However, I do think that many Christians might find similar sentiments coming from their own hearts and mouths, and I do think that, if these were the confessions of a dying unbeliever, they provide a platform by means of which to point them from the emptiness of self toward the fullness of Christ Jesus.

      Happy to receive any kick back, brother!

      Jeremy Walker

      Tuesday 21 June 2011 at 16:48

      • Ah yes, that is much more helpful perspective! You’ve made a very constructive adaptation of these points for Christians, and I wholeheartedly agree with your take on each one, even #5 about being more joyful in the light of our great salvation.

        On further examination, #3 would also be more applicable to Christians in regards to spreading the good news of the gospel – not so much expressing “feelings” but rather being bold to speak of Christ on many more occasions.

        I think your original post might be better understood if you referred to “fear of man” instead of just “fears” in the abstract, to clarify how Christians make this list useful for themselves.

        Alex

        Tuesday 21 June 2011 at 17:14


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