A 'Top 5 Regrets of the Dying' Christmas message
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-12-25
Jennifer Fulwiler’s TOP 5 REGRETS OF THE DYING posting on the December 12 online edition of the National Catholic Register caught your Chair Wrecker’s attention. Your Chair Wrecker has long been in what is considered life’s pre-departure area — folks awaiting the call to move on to the next life, the eternal one. In the pre-departure area, you hope that your flight will be delayed indefinitely, if not cancelled outright.

Departure is something that we cannot avoid or get away from. It’s not a question of if we will depart from this earth, but when. Death is more certain to hit us than taxes. In some cases, some folks manage to avoid taxes but they’ll not be able to avoid their departure call when it comes. The reality is we are all in the pre-departure area the moment we’re born. Thus, whether you’re in life’s pre-departure area or not, these Top 5 Regrets of the Dying are relevant to all of us.

What are the reported Top 5 Regrets of the Dying? Acquired from collected experiences in a nursing home for the aged, these are:

1. “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

2. “I wish I didn’t work so hard.”

3. “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”

4. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”

5. “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”

Living a life true to one’s self
We’ve been conditioned to live up to the expectations of others. There are the expectations of our parents — that we become moral, responsible citizens and attain financial security. There are the expectations of our peers and society. In many cases, peer expectations get us into trouble especially when we’re are in the company of troublesome and psychotic peers.

It’s pitiful when a person attains social admiration and the respect from peers — but in the end regrets not having pursued in life what is the clamor of their very soul, mind and heart. Many are trapped in what is called the “Keeping up with the Joneses” mindset. Many even manage to exceed the Joneses but found no feeling of fulfillment or happiness because they pursued a wrong value.

Excessive attention to work

How many people have we seen who have reached old age and expressed regret for having worked too hard and thus have missed the growing years of their children and the best years of their marriage when passions were still high? It was too late for them to realize that one can make money at any age in life but those lost years with our spouses and children pass away with time.

Often the problem is founded on wrong values — putting career at a higher priority over love. Life’s most important objective is love. Wealth is accumulated in order to enhance love. When we work too hard and forget love, we in effect made money the top of our priorities — the means became the ends.

Courage to express one’s self

There are many who would rather remain quiet than express one’s true feelings about a situation or development that affects them. Such mindsets often produce mediocre performers in life. Lacking the courage to express one’s true opinion easily leads to a lack of courage to grasp bold ideas that produce significant changes.  

If too many of us lack the courage to express our true feelings, we are prone to being abused and exploited by our leaders. A timid society will encourage tyrants to continue with their transgressions.

Wish to have stayed in touch with friends

This syndrome applies more to the comparatively more socially mobile and less sentimental societies like that of US. It is untypical for Filipinos to be removed from their families and friends. The importance of our friends from way back is seen from the many reunions we want to attend yearly. In old age, many are stunned by the new generation with whom they cannot relate. This is where our friends become very important. They provide us our comfort zone.

Wish to have allowed one’s self to be happier

We often hear this from folks who have chosen a career they didn’t like but dedicated the best years of their lives on it just the same because they wanted to please their parents or spouse. We also hear this from folks who have married spouses not because of love but because of other considerations like career advancement or financial gains.

You might ask why your Chair Wrecker is talking about regrets of folks in the pre-departure area of life at a time like Christmas Day. My answer is simple. If you have a kin or a friend with whom you’ve quarreled, if you have a former associate with whom you’ve had a big row, if there is anyone you have disappointed, hurt or slighted — this is the best time to erase all that.

It is in this season of love when we can best register our sincere message of let bygones be bygones, let’s drop all the hate and feast again in love, goodwill and friendship. It is in this season when we can expect the hardest hearts to melt when a sincere effort is made to relate once again.

These days we tend to be absorbed by the commercialism that has consumed mankind in the 21st century — the same commercialism that erodes our values and leads us to open ourselves to temptations we will find hard to resist.

Discussing the Top 5 Regrets of the Dying helps to make us focus on the values in life that should form our top priorities. This glimpse of the regrets of folks in the pre-departure area should give us pause on how to live the present moment, the only moment we really have. The past is past and we don’t know if we’ll still be around for the future we’re trying to shape.

Your Chair Wrecker wishes you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a bounty of love.

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Chair Wrecker e-mail and website: macesposo@yahoo.com and www.chairwrecker.com

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