One of the most influential exercises that we have done as part of the End of Life Doula training is to look at our own death and to imagine how we would feel if we only had one week left to live. It is an incredibly powerful thing to look at our own life as it is now and to imagine if it were all to end tomorrow, how might we feel about what we would be leaving behind. We might be entirely content that we have done everything absolutely how we would have wanted and be able to face death comfortable with our own legacy. Alternatively we might look at our life as it is now and think that there are things we would want to change or want to have done before we were to die.
An Australian nurse, Bronnie Ware who worked with many patients at the end of their lives recorded what their greatest regrets were as they faced up to their own deaths. The top five regrets were:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Looking at these things, at the end of life people don’t focus on possessions or wealth – what matters is the emotional, spiritual and sociological aspects of their lives to date. Perhaps when we are living we need to look at these things and ask ourselves whether we are giving them enough consideration now? This is the time we have to change things. When you are asked on your deathbed what your regrets are it is too late.
Death My Loyal Friend by Emily C. Wells
When I was born, I was dying for warmth,
And as I grew, I was dying again.
Dying for affection, for love.
I was dying simply for a friend.
Though I got all of these,
I was always dying for more.
Dying to get older,
Dying to escape life’s pause.
I was dying to find someone,
Dying to settle down,
Dying to be happier,
To have someone to wrap around.
I continued dying every day
Until I hit 99 and grew weak.
I was dying to see my family,
Dying not to fade; this I began to seek.
And then I saw it in that light.
I was finally dying for something to give,
And I knew that I had been dying for so long
That I forgot how to live.