Dead At 62
My Mom lost her favorite cousin at noon on Wednesday to brain cancer. He was 62. He was a mechanic for an airline with a complete awe and joy for life. I didn't know him well but I do remember he would send my Mom a video greeting every morning. "Good Morning Michigan!" and the little joke or inspiration of the day would commence. He and Mom were talking this time last year about starting a vegetarian restaurant together when he retired.
His son died three weeks later of some kind of cancer. Gary was abandoned by his mother (she was dying of bowel cancer at 38 and wanted to enjoy her last time on earth) and Gary's wife left him with their two kids. I'm not making this up.
I guess when people ask me, "Why did you create The Remembering Site?" it's for all of us who will someday very finally take our last breath. Some will live into their 90s but the fact is that most of us will leave this earth in our 70s and 80s and some, like Gary, will be stopped just as his grandchildren are starting school. Or, like my father who died at 55, never saw his grandchildren.
I suppose it's the cruel finality of death that caused me to create The Remembering Site. When death comes, our coffee pots will still be plugged in, the phone will still ring, your bed will be made or unmade, the vacation will have been planned or once again postponed, and you will either have taken the time to write about your life to share with loved ones or you won't.
My Dad and I were so busy living that I never stopped to take the time to ask all the questions that I should have, and I have a million for him. And now the details are gone forever. I'll never know his thoughts on so many issues. And my memory has faded on all the stories that he DID tell me about his grandfather being best friends with Harvey Firestone, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford. And where or where is that photo of them walking arm in arm down a cobblestone road?
And, Dad, just what WAS a binding post for which my great grandfather received a patent? And who has all the other patents that Grandpa McCue was given in the early 1900s? And tell me once again about the beautiful relationship he, Dr. Crystal C. McCue, had with his beloved nurse of a wife, Joanna? Or am I confusing the names? Was it Crystal and Joanna or Crystal and Phoebe? Did the village folk REALLY build them a house big enough for seven children so that they wouldn't lose their only doctor? Tell me again what your chores were growing up.
I remember Grandma McCue telling me something about being a member of the Order of the Eastern Star. What did she tell you about it? I remember when I was 18, we had a long long talk about your life growing up. You told me so many things. But that was 20 years ago, and the details are fuzzy. I can hear your voice, I can see your curly hair and happy face but ... I just can't remember.
Oh to have you back for just one day to help me remember.
Write your life story at www.TheRememberingSite.org. What are you waiting for?
Dr. Sarah McCue
April 1, 2006
Top Five Regrets Of The Dying
By Bronnier Ware, RN
For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learned never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them. When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
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 have 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. It is very important to try and honor 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 realize, 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 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. 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 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, 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. Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.