Here’s a very Wintery grey day shot of the little seaside town where my father and mother met and I was conceived, before they parted forever. I visited the town with my mother some years before she died and it must have been an emotional trip back to the past for her. She handled it bravely and the bizarre experience of being there with me so many decades later…5 to be precise!
It is a place I visit quite regularly and did so yesterday, to enjoy a very pleasant meal overlooking the place that is so vital in my life story. The meal was a surprise gift, a prize in a draw, $200 worth of eating delicious food, well cooked and presented. It was memorable – the Thai inspired battered and deep fried oysters will live on in the food memory for many years, if not forever! I hope to return to refresh the memory from time to time!
I don’t intend to have any regrets when I come to be faced with my mortality. My recent little brush with it reminded me very firmly that there is no place for regrets. I long ago learned to be true to myself, to be happy and enjoy the simple things of life. I also learned that some friendships endure, some do not and that love is complicated! Back thirty or so years ago I learned to roll with the punches, to not push fate and to allow what would unfold to do so in its own time.
It’s been an amazing life, divided into distinct ‘chapters’, the first of which sometimes seems like a sub-chapter, because it was only one month long, but it was the most important of my life. I spent it with my mother after my birth, when she cared for me and clearly bonding took place. Adoption was done that way back then and the mother’s punishment for her ‘indiscretions’ was to have time caring for her baby before being parted forever, that of course included breast-feeding, the ultimate bonding experience. It was not foreseen that the law would one day change and mother and child be reunited. It was not foreseen that the cruelty of adoption practice would be in the spotlight and judged for what it was – cruel and inhumane. Those who carried it out were no doubt ‘following orders’, doing their job and only doing what was expected.
My mother told me that she and other mothers flouted the rules when they got the opportunity, cuddled their babies and showed them love and caring. I put my strong sense of identity down to this. I have never had to question who I am or who I was or might have been. Despite five changes of name throughout my life, I have never been confused or questioned my identity, at the core it is solid. I am forever grateful to my mother for this and pay tribute to all the mothers who flouted the rules, bucked the system in whatever way they could. I hope they too produced children who grew into adult adoptees with a strong sense of identity and justice.
From the blog Inspiration and Chai People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt 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.
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.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.