I can picture my funeral clearly, I see the faces of all the people I love and I have even selected the music. My husband hates talking about it, but he knows exactly what I want. Considering I am a healthy 36-year-old woman, I would not blame you for thinking I am little crazy. The truth is, thinking about the end, helps me cherish the good times, get through the hard times and make clearer decisions in life.
Only just the other day, I bumped into a long lost friend. We both happened to be on the sideline of our children’s Saturday soccer game. After a quick catch up on all things to do with family, career, and life in general; with tears in her eyes, she spoke about a mutual friend we shared as teenagers. She was dying of cancer. I had heard she was ill but I assumed, given she was young that there might be a chance she would get better. Apparently, there was very little hope left and she was now playing the waiting game. We talked about the fact she never had the chance to have children; and in a flash, the early muddy Saturday morning start, and hoards of screaming children that surrounded us seemed like a dream come true.
Through the pain of it all, my friend reflected upon how watching one of her best friends slowly fade away, had changed her life. Everything was thrown into perspective and she was forced to think about her own mortality. The trivial problems that she faced, no longer mattered, and she was so grateful for all that she had.
I walked away pondering what we had discussed and felt a heavy heart for my friend who was clearly hurting. I then began to think about the fact we are all playing the waiting game. Problem is we have no idea when our time will come. We can hope and pray we enjoy all the life our body has to offer until old age, but that is never guaranteed.
One of the best books I have ever read is ‘The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying’ by Bronnie Ware. Bronnie, a palliative care nurse, recognised the wisdom her patients were sharing in their last days and decided to share it with the world.
Here are the top five regrets in her words-
- 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
Each and every regret struck to my core and it was impossible for me to finish reading the book as the same woman I was when I opened it. That is when I decided to think of my funeral on a consistent basis. Not because it is a gloomy thing to do, but because it reminds me I am alive and healthy now. Every time I think of the end, I feel a greater sense of urgency. I no longer want to waste time doing things that don’t enrich my life and the world I live in. I no longer want to be surrounded by people who exhaust me as opposed to inspire me. I make a point of always saying ‘I love you’ to the people I care about, and I never leave the house without hugging and kissing my babies (including my big one).
Not so long ago an image went viral online, it was of an ambulance officer in Australia who granted the dying wish of his passenger. An elderly woman who wanted to see the ocean one last time before she went to the hospital to die. He did not hesitate and someone was able to capture the moment from a respectful distance behind them. You did not need a close up to sense the love and power of that moment. It was breathtaking. It was human.
Death is as much a part of our life as our birth. There is nothing wrong with thinking about it well before it happens. I recommend you do think about it. As Socrates said ‘Death may be the greatest of all human blessings’. Do not fear the end, fear not living your life to the fullest. My music choices for my funeral may change, and new faces may appear in my vision, but I know for sure the day will come. I pray by then I am able to pass on surrounded by love and with no regrets at all. I hope the same applies to you.
Love and magic