Yesterday was our thirtieth wedding anniversary, so my husband and I decided to meet up after work for a celebratory dinner. As I prepared to leave the office, however, I received a shockingly sad email in my inbox. It announced that one of our neighbors, while playing tennis at a nearby club, collapsed and died of a heart attack.
Walt was a healthy, spry man in his early seventies. My husband and I regularly saw him on our street; stopping – along with his adorable, ten-pound, white Bichon Frisé named Bella – for a quick chat and friendly smiles with passers-by. He was easy-going, bright, and plain nice. And though we didn’t know much about Walt’s family or younger years, we liked him very much and will miss him.
Yesterday, actor James Gandolfini also died. James and I shared a birthday; September 18, 1961. We enjoyed his acting very much and will miss him.
Knowing that life can end suddenly – with no warning – is unnerving to say the least. So, I can’t help but wonder…What would your biggest regret be if this was your last day of life?
A nurse who worked for many years with terminal patients asked them this very question. She reported hearing a consistent theme that boiled down to five main 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.
These regrets are representative of many issues.
- We try to be who others want or expect us to be – developing low self-esteem or feelings of inadequacy and confusion in the process.
- We stay at the office too late or attend excessive numbers of evening or weekend meetings – keeping us away from family members and/or family priorities.
- We hold our stresses, emotions, and fears inside – causing health issues or alienation from those about whom we care most.
- We become preoccupied with and trapped by the “here and now” – causing us to disconnect from old friends.
- We worry about the wellbeing and happiness of others – ignoring our own emotional need for happiness.
For many years now, I have worked hard to address these issues in terms of how I live my life every day. (I think I’ve made a lot of progress!) As a matter of fact, this blog is an example of how I choose to be true to myself and to express myself. But I know it’s not enough. I have to exercise more, play more, hang out with family and friends more, and not take things so seriously. I have to eat better. I have to kiss, hug, have sex (OMG, I hope my parents and kids aren’t reading this!), laugh, and say “I love you” more.
Oy. I have SO much to do. I really hope tomorrow isn’t my last day…
Rest in peace, Walt. Rest in peace, James.