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Top 5 Regrets of the Dying + Another Mary Oliver Poem

Updated: Apr 29, 2020

The Summer Day Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean- the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down- who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. I don't know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do With your one wild and precious life? -Mary Oliver

It may still be spring, but this 'summer day' poem by Mary Oliver was on my mind as I transplanted vegetables started from seed at the beginning of the quarantine. I was not surprised to be reminded of her poetry on earth day as I kneeled with my hands in the soil and the rain falling on my head. I found myself in a malasana squat as I dropped a baby zucchini plant into the earth and felt called to bow my head. I quickly fell into a deep prayer and felt blissfully connected to the earth below. I've been praying and meditating a lot, especially after losing a dear friend on Easter Sunday. Facing the death of a loved one is a powerful tool to reawaken gratitude and nudge us to live life to the fullest. I take a moment every day to recall the top 5 regrets of the dying with the hope that when my time comes to leave this earth, I will leave free of regrets. These top 5 regrets were gathered by Bronnie Ware, an Australian palliative nurse who essentially worked as a death doula and noticed a lot of repetition of regrets when caring for others towards the end of their lives. I hope you'll take a few moments to consider these regrets and that they may give you a fresh perspective and help you find more balance in your life. The Top 5 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. "This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it."

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard. "This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings. "Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. "Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."

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 themselves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

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