wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others
expected of me.”
This is the most common deathbed regret that palliative nurse, Bronnie Ware, heard, in the eight years she spent in dedication to caring for those who were dying.
Haunting. Poignant. Heartbreaking. An awareness, a belief, a realization of a truth, voiced at the moment of exceptional clarity before death – I did not live my life true to myself.
In reading this regret, I have wondered, how might I – how might we – live our lives – in truth to ourselves. Is it ultimately a life without regret? I’m thinking that’s not really it – I have regrets that I know will remain with me – choices I wish had made related to relationships, family, career – those forks in the road where I now wish I had gone a different way. But are those regrets that will give me great sadness when my time comes? I think it might be deeper than that – than those regrets. Maybe then the question for us is, what is living a life that is true to ourselves? What is that truth?
I like to believe that the passage from Matthew 5:14-16 offers some wisdom in discerning that truth. These words assure us that we have a light -- the love of God that we all carry within us. The light, the love, gifted to us by God, as our essential nature. A love that we are inherently able to give and to receive. We are all born into that ability, because we embody it. And in knowing that we are created that way, God asks us to shine that light freely. Shine that light, by loving him, loving each other, loving ourselves.
So, maybe that is the truth that we can strive to live into fully, by living in awareness of that light and in our innate ability to love and to be loved. And we can do that, I think, by making choices, in speech, in action -- in alignment with our true nature, our gift, our light. Perhaps then, when that time comes to give that final look back at our lived life on this earth, we may know that even through our disappointments and circumstances that did not turn out the way we had wished, that we strived to live a life congruent with our truth. No matter the outcome, we made choices that honored our truth, our light, our God. That might indeed be the life that is true to ourselves. And that is the life that gives us peace – both now, and at the moment we prepare to join with God, with a heart and mind at rest, without regret, in the comfort of a life well lived.
Source: Ware, B. (2019). The top five regrets of the dying: A life transformed by the dearly departing. Alexandria, NSW: Hay House Australia.