A special peace and comfort in two short words: No regrets


     Funerals are a time of mourning. We suffer loss and we grieve. We share memories and shed tears.
    But not all grief is equal. You can find a remarkable dichotomy in the mood and atmosphere when we are saying goodbye to loved ones. Many people are prepared for the end of their lives. But many others are not.
      As much as our hearts might break at the loss of life, there is a special peace and comfort when we are celebrating the life of someone who lived fully and faithfully in service to Christ and to others.
       Not long ago, a friend shared a story about being at the funeral of a young man who died in an accident. Through tears and heartache, the deceased’s father, a pastor, talked about the special relationship he had with his son and made this declaration: I have no regrets. Through 21 years of raising his son, he was not claiming to have been perfect, only that he had spared no effort in being a faithful father.
         No regrets.Those two little words speak volumes.
       How many of us, when honestly reflecting on our lives or our relationships, would be able to say the same thing?
         That is the topic of a book written by Bronnie Ware, who spent years caring for patients in the final days and weeks of their lives.
        Ware, an Australian nurse, began blogging about her experiences providing palliative care. She developed such a large following from readers around the globe that she eventually turned her efforts into a book: “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.”
       In the book, Ware shares her belief that it is possible for people to die with peace of mind, as long as they make good choices in life. Of course, as believers, we know peace of mind is available when we make one critical choice: embracing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
    In Ware’s one-person unofficial research project, end-of-life regrets did not involve missing out on great adventure or going on exotic travel. The Top Five regrets involved "common themes which surfaced again and again," she said.
     Here is the list of regrets most-often cited by Ware’s patients:
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 honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made."
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.”
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
"Everyone misses their friends when they are dying. Often they would not realize 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."
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
"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 that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."
     It is human nature for people to have regrets for things they have done, or failed to do. As Christians, we are grateful to know we have been given the opportunity for a second chance and redemption. And for that we can celebrate -- for eternity.
Glenn Hannigan is editor of the North Georgia Advocate. You can contact him at glenn@ngumc.org.