They say that your life flashes before you before you die. An interesting movie? Perhaps – but what of those final edits you wished you had made?
Personally, I find coping with death puts my life into better perspective. This is a familiar approach to living and dying if we look at ancient Egyptian and Tibetan cultures. But a couple of news stories have stirred up the idea that death is good for your life. What’s more, Nursing Times has just published an article suggesting that the regrets of the dying should influence end of life care.
“Top Five Regrets of the Dying” is an inspirational piece written by Bronnie Ware, an Australian who claims she has had these insights from years of work in palliative care. They are:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I didn’t work 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.
Bringing oneself (mentally) to the end of one’s life, and then looking back, gives one the chance to say “What changes would I have made?” – with the difference that there is probably still time to make them. A variation is to imagine oneself in the future, after death, wondering how one will be remembered, what would be written on your gravestone, what people would say about you at your funeral. What would you like them to say? What sort of person would you like to have been, and what is stopping you? Did you spend your life being generous and loving, searching for inner peace, or achieving the impossible in your career? What will you life have stood for?
These contemplations can be a way of “getting real” and living the life one really wants to lead, being the kind of person one really wants to be. Dying is part of living, the thing that completes each of us. Rather like, I sometimes feel, finishing writing that novel and sending it off to the publishers. Dying is what makes life complete and, only then, can you really say how much you truly lived and loved, treasured every moment, or brought joy into the lives of others. There are no further edits.
Dying Matters Awareness Week is set to run from 16th-22nd May 2011. Headed up by the National Council for Palliative Care, Dying Matters Coalition is launching a range of resources including a film of short talking heads on the week’s theme of “Why Dying Matters to Me” as well as materials aimed at engaging people on end of life care issues.
I’m not expecting any great rush to make available materials on voluntary termination of one’s own life in the face of unbearable and unrelievable suffering, but maybe readers will enjoy asking how the knowledge to be able to end one’s life with dignity and peacefully contributes to better living.
“Dying is as much part of living as being born and until the taboo around dying and death is broken many people will continue to avoid talking about the type of end of life care they would want.” – Eve Richardson, Chief Executive of the National Council for Palliative Care and the Dying Matters Coalition.