A roller coaster ride suddenly drops 500 feet. A frantic car horn helps you steer your bike out of the way of an erratic driver. Your tumor biopsy comes back negative. All of these scenarios can precipitate a fear of dying or the sense that you narrowly survived a brush with death. And is there anything scarier than dying? After spending four decades working with the dying, I can unequivocally say, “yes.”
The one thing scarier than dying is never learning to live.
It is now fall, a time when we admire the dying of leaves as they release their beautiful colors. This striking visual provides us a reminder that the cycle of life and death need not always feel tragic. The real tragedy is when we fail to find the beauty, the opportunities and the treasured moments in our own life cycle, however long or short it may be.
For me, there is nothing like working with the dying to teach one about living. Below are the painful ‘should’ve-could’ve’ regrets I have learned from these teachers, which you can preempt now:
- Not taking the chance to do what really sparks your passion in life.
- Not telling people you love them.
- Failing to thank the people who have inspired you, supported you or who provided the difficult situation where you had to rise up and claim your strength.
- Waiting for “someday” to take that special trip.
- Not buying yourself flowers or a treat because it felt selfish or indulgent.
- Being afraid to take risks.
- Not recognizing that the little things are really the biggest things when you look back at your life, things like:
- a quiet moment with your child sleeping on your lap after you finished reading a book.
- putting your arm around your beloved in silence while you took in the beauty of a sunset over the mountains.
- remembering the awe of watching a newborn fawn struggle to stand while its proud mother provides encouraging nudges.
- arriving home to smell the delicious aroma of your farovite meal or dessert that someone prepared just for you.
- receiving scrawled artwork that your 3-year-old grandchild created.
The list goes on and on.
Don’t wait until the fall of your life to do a life review. Create your “If I had no fear…” or “If I had more time…” list, and then live it! Embrace this season of change and all its beauty and opportunity.
Block the ‘should’ve, could’ve’ ghosts by living well now. Don’t allow your untouched bucket list to haunt you with regret.
Tani Bahti, RN, CT, CHPN, offers practical guidance to demystify the dying process. A RN since 1976, Tani has been working to empower families and healthcare professionals to enable the best end-of-life experience possible through education and the development of helpful tools and resources. The current owner of Pathways, Tani is also the author of “Dying to Know, Straight Talk About Death and Dying,” a book that SevenPonds considers one of the most helpful books on the subject available today. Founder Suzette Sherman says, “This is the book I will have at the bedside of my dying parents some day, hopefully, a very long time from now.”