What can we learn from the dying?

Death has a certain way of giving us perspective. Perhaps that’s why the teacher wrote, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

Bronnie Ware was a palliative care (hospice) nurse for many years. On average, she spent the last 3-12 weeks of life with her patients. Many times, they would spontaneously express regrets about how they had lived their lives. This happened so many times that Ware wrote a book cataloguing the five most common 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. Many people lived their entire lives with a dream that they never even attempted to pursue.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. Ware heard this so often that she intentionally simplified her lifestyle so she could “need” less and work less.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. Many take guilt to the grave rather than risking an apology. Others never said what was most important to the people that were most important.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Don’t we all see friends and talk about getting together—but never do it?

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. Worry and dread and anxiety are parasites of joy. Happiness is a choice.

In Christianity, we have an amazing opportunity to learn from the dead. Will you make the decisions necessary to benefit from that knowledge?