Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about death and how to live a regret free life. Today is the anniversary of my niece’s death, who died at 24 years old of the rare cancer Ewing’s Sarcoma. A few years ago, my younger brother, age 50, was diagnosed with throat cancer and he’s a non-smoker.
These events have made me feel quite vulnerable, knowing I could be next to receive such a diagnosis. I’ve used these events to take an inventory of my life, and I’ve taken a good hard look at what’s working for me and what’s not, and I’ve decided to make some major changes. I want to make sure I’m living my life in a way that if I were to receive such a diagnosis, I am living a regret-free life.
I rarely write about my personal life because I’m a very private person, but I’d like to share my story about my own major health crisis and the spiritual awakening that accompanied it, at the age of 46.
I had gone in for a major surgery, one that is quite common for women, and I was doing well until 6 weeks after the surgery. I collapsed onto the floor due to severe abdominal pain. Daily, the pain continued to get worse until my body was consumed by nerve pain that spread over most of my body. It was as if somebody doused me in gasoline and lit a match. One night the pain became so severe that I was left screaming and pleading to God for my very life.
I found myself in a wheelchair and living on a cocktail of morphine and dilauded. At the time, doctors told me they had never seen such a rare reaction from this kind of surgery. They brought in top pain specialists and these doctors told me I would probably live the rest of my life in pain and be in a wheelchair. At this point, I felt that the life I knew was over and I was terrified about what my life would be like going forward. This was my big wake-up call.
The night I pleaded with God to save me, I made a bargain with God. If God would restore my life, I would spend the rest of my life doing God’s will. I would live a life that served others and I would try my hardest to fulfill my personal potential and utilize all the gifts and talents that God had given me.
I made a promise to myself as well. If I were to recover, I would do all the things I had always longed to do, but was afraid to or had just put off. I vowed that I would never again live with the regret I was now consumed with, over not having fully lived my life.
That night I had an incredible vision. My dead grandmother came to my bedside. She showed me a scene of the outside of my house. She then peeled away that scene as if it were a paper movie screen, and there beyond it, lay infinity. It was so vast, lit with stars, and mesmerizingly beautiful. I was in awe. At this moment, I realized that I was seeing beyond the veil of this reality and she was letting me know that there was so much more to this life than I had ever realized.
I had never had a vision before or any visit from her or any dead person, but I intuitively knew she came to watch over me and that I was going to be ok. I was filled with a deep sense of peace and gratitude and this was just the beginning of many deep spiritual experiences and awakenings that would happen to me over the next several years.
It took me over a year to completely heal, become pain free, and to be able to get in my car and drive again. I will never forget the feeling of joy and freedom I felt as I drove off in my car for the first time in over a year. I was no longer a prisoner in my own home.
It’s been 15 years since that experience, and I can honestly say I have accomplished everything I set out to do. I have kept my promise to God and in 15 years I have fulfilled my dreams. I could die today and have no regrets. Could you?
Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent years working in palliative care, caring for patients at the end of their lives. She recorded their thoughts, regrets, and observations about life and turned it all into the book Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.
Here are the top 5 regrets:
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
I wish I hadn’t worked 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.
My wish for you is to live a regret free life. Choose happiness, begin to take risks, and move courageously in the direction of your dreams. Express the love inside of you and most of all take good care of your health and body. You may neglect it and be filled with self-loathing for your body right now, but I can tell you from personal experience, that if you ever lost the ability to walk or to not be pain free, you would give anything to have your current body back: lumps, bumps, warts, and all.
Your body is the vehicle of your dreams. Without it, you’re nothing.
This is your one and only precious life. Do the things you really want to do. You have nothing to lose because you’ve been given a terminal diagnosis: it’s called Life.
What are your top regrets?
How can you begin to take action in these areas?