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  • Writer's pictureKatie Beucus

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

Aaron died with zero regrets. I remember him sitting in the bathroom at the hospital the day we found out he was terminal. He had lost bladder and bowel control and so we spent a lot of time in there trying to avoid accidents. We joked about how it had become my job to wipe literally every butt in our family.

We weren’t joking this time though. I can see it like it was yesterday. Aaron sitting, hospital gown draped in front of him, catheter hanging from his walker, arms draped over the front of it to help support his upper body. Fresh new eyelashes and eyebrows on his face which was scabbed from having been intubated so frequently week after week prior. Me sitting just outside the bathroom door on his hospital bed. Through tears he said, “It might sound dumb, because I’m only 37, but I’ve lived a really full life. I’ve worked really cool jobs I loved, been to amazing places, great friends, I have an incredible wife, two beautiful children and a home. What more could I have wanted?” And he really, truly, believed that.

It’s interesting that as I write this, I remember in those last hospital days especially, how awful it felt to leave him at night. I have that same pit in my stomach that I would get as I’d watch the clock tick closer to 8 when visiting hours ended.

On his hardest nights, and surgery nights, I never left. I didn’t ask to stay, but I was never asked to leave either (except for our last week at Scripps, which was a nightmare of an experience for another day).

Aaron said he always slept better when I was there, and so anytime I had to leave felt so awful. The closest thing I can possibly equate it to is how you feel as a mother when you leave your new baby for the first time. Only so much worse because I knew how helpless Aaron felt when I wasn’t there. And not because he did not have wonderful nurses. He had the absolute best of the best. We loved them like family. But as one can maybe imagine, as a grown man who had rapidly lost nearly all independence over the course of a month, there are just things you’d probably feel more comfortable having  your wife help you with.

Anyway, I just finished reading The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware who was a palliative care giver.

It’s made me think a lot about if I died tomorrow, would any of these be on my list or would I feel fulfilled and without regrets like Aaron did?

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. People pleaser in recovery here. I feel like I am the most true and authentic version of myself now, having lost Aaron. Experiences like that force you so far outside of your comfort zone you have no choice but to find your most authentic self despite what anyone else might expect from you. It’s how you survive. And initially, you basically give zero fs because you’re so lost in grief to even contemplate what anyone around you is thinking about you anyway.

I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. This is a tough one. I work my butt off. I have from a really young age and am incredibly proud of the success I have earned. Yet I know if I were on my death bed, the amount I pour into work would be something I regret. Especially with kids so young. But I’m also a single parent with two kids to provide for. It’s all a balancing act I feel like I get better some days than others, but I think we might just be hitting a groove that feels level more often than not.

I wish I had the courage to express my feelings. Through Aaron’s illness and death I have become a much more open and effective communicator. I am still particularly guarded of my feelings, but I am constantly working on improving in this area, especially for the kids. It’s so important they see healthy expressions of emotions from those with whom they feel safe with and loved by. I am very protective of my heart. I used to give all of my heart to everyone, and I got hurt often because of that. Sometimes repeatedly. I am much more selective now.

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. No regrets. Death can quickly and clearly define those in your life who are friends from those who are acquaintances.  I have been blessed with some of the most incredible friends and I wish the rest nothing but a beautiful life.

I wish I had let myself be happier. I have let go of so much that did not bring me joy since I lost Aaron and I am just now entering a time post death where I do not feel guilty for feeling happiness. There are so many things that do not impact my joy now, that absolutely would have 5 years ago. I suppose my regret here is that it took someone I love dearly dying, for me to get to this place. Please don’t be like me, seek joy wherever it can be found 💛

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