This morning, I stumbled across an article written by a palliative care nurse listing the top five regrets that people shared on their deathbed. Although I find the idea of deathbed regrets to be quite a sad thing, there is probably a lot to be learned from them. As we are living, our perspective on life seems to be quite different than it is when we are at the end of life and the sad part about deathbed regrets is that the perspective that would give you clarity to change your life only happens at a point where it’s too late. This is something that I have far to intimate understanding of. Not that I have been on my deathbed myself but I have certainly experienced this feeling in dealing with KB’s death.
The number five item on the list in the article really caught my eye:
“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 their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.”
I think that KB made a choice to be happy. Even though she experienced a lot of grief and turmoil in her own life she reminded herself everyday that she had plenty to be happy for. She had a checklist of sorts that she would go through whenever she was feeling a little down or just less happy than she would like to be. She would ask herself things like: “Are my children happy and safe? Are my loved ones happy and safe? Do I have food and shelter?” If she answered yes to the things on her checklist, then all was well with the world and the most important things were taken care of. If she answered no… that was a call to action. Of course the next question would be: “What can I do to change that?”
Don’t get me wrong, KB certainly had bad days where she felt sad or angry or bored just like the rest of us and it’s probably healthy to let yourself feel these things for a while but I can honestly say that KB chose to be happy and I think that is how she was able to look at life in the most positive light and I think that made her want to give and be kind to people.