Offered in the spirit of the ars moriendi:
‘Under this rock lies a man who, in all earnestness and with every endeavour, tried and failed (although not every time) to, sometimes humorously and sometimes less so, enlighten the world around him (by world, I mean his colleagues at the Knox Centre, at Knox College and the wider world through his blogging and use of social networks, although not Facebook, which he despised for reasons expressed loudly and often, but which were largely invalid) about the merits of PT Forsyth and Karl Barth and to provide them with a map which, if followed carefully, would assist them to more accurately understand Forsyth’s and Barth’s contribution within a wider landscape of theological conversation and be persuaded of the importance of Christology above all – disappointingly, he mastered neither spelling nor grammar nor the assiduous use of a full stop’. – Catherine van Dorp
And it’s claimed that the average sentence is only ten words long these days…
I’m doing my best to improve the averages Mike, but I’m just one man, and I’m not half the man I used to be, [and] there’s a shadow hanging over me …
Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Called him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath,
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain
‘Ode to a Nightingale’
Given that this is to be an obituary, it’s pretty safe to say that you will have mastered the full stop once and for all when this is properly published.
One of my close friends and inspirations has this as his proposed obituary:
I think that about sums it up.
Dan, I love “nice try.”
And this one’s stolen from a Bob Dylan song: “I had so much left to do; I had so little time to fail.”
Speaking of thinking about dying, Bronnie Ware, an Australian who worked as a palliative care nurse and who blogged the dying epiphanies of her patients, now has a book – The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing – in which she identifies the five most common regrets as:
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 realise 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 honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn’t work 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.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
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. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realise 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. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise 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, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
A work colleague I was close to died late last year of cancer. From diagnosis to death was a very short time – a matter of weeks. And so not much time to ‘regret’ or ‘reconcile’ – and no visitors towards the end – only family.
Her funeral was the most difficult one I’ve attended for some years.
Great stuff, Jason. Thanks for the direction to the Bronnie Ware book. Best.