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Top five regrets of the dying
February 2, 2012 5:41 AM   Subscribe

Top five regrets of the dying. A palliative nurse who has counselled the dying in their last days has revealed the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives.
posted by ClanvidHorse (196 comments total) 72 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was going to congratulate myself on the certainty that I will not regret having worked too hard. Then it occurred to me that any people who regret not having worked harder probably wouldn't have a palliative care nurse to make note of it.
posted by Trurl at 5:46 AM on February 2, 2012 [68 favorites]


#6. I wish I'd spent more time on the Internet.
posted by hudders at 5:47 AM on February 2, 2012 [14 favorites]


#7. I wish I wasn't dying.
posted by sfts2 at 5:50 AM on February 2, 2012 [66 favorites]


I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

I expected to see this here. Too many people seem to be struck with the belief that life is really for nothing more than working for someone else. Of course, some of us work for ourselves, but that seems to be the exception, rather than the rule. I try not to work too hard and enjoy my life outside of work more than I enjoy actually working, which really sucks, for the most part, despite the fact that I get to write a lot.

This piece hit too close to home, honestly. Thanks for the post.
posted by IvoShandor at 5:51 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Combining the top two together, it looks like a lot of people are working only because it's expected of them. But that's not entirely true, as with the system as it currently works, you can't really do otherwise.
posted by DU at 5:53 AM on February 2, 2012 [11 favorites]


I wish that I had let myself be happier.

I'm struggling a little to believe that anyone actually said that, whatever it means. It sounds more like what Ware thinks they ought to have said.

Or is it just a genteel way of saying what John Betjeman said was his regret ("I haven't had enough sex").
posted by Segundus at 5:54 AM on February 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm glad we've been able to distill the reflective despair of the morituri into a Cracked.com-style list.
posted by erro at 5:56 AM on February 2, 2012 [28 favorites]


I wish that I had let myself be happier.

I'm struggling a little to believe that anyone actually said that, whatever it means. It sounds more like what Ware thinks they ought to have said.


I don't know, it sounds like a fairly plausible regret for someone suffering from untreated depression.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:56 AM on February 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Real friends are the only true currency in this world. ( I wish I would have figured that out earlier, though.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:58 AM on February 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't know, it sounds like a fairly plausible regret for someone suffering from untreated depression.

I think it is more "I wish I had realised what I had and enjoyed that rather than looking ahead and behind all the time".
posted by episodic at 5:59 AM on February 2, 2012 [16 favorites]


I expect to continue to regret being born right up until the end.

And death will be a sweet release from this life without sex.
posted by planet at 6:02 AM on February 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


As one of the commenters in the original article says - must we really accept that every single male patient she has ever talked to has regretted spending too much time working so that they could spend more with their children?

Also missing is a record of the number of people who said that they had no regrets at all. Studying how common that state is, and how people arrive at it, would be equally worthwhile.

I'd like to see the results of a larger, less anecdotal, data gathering exercise on this subject.
posted by rongorongo at 6:03 AM on February 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


...you know, retitle this article "Top Five Regrets of Graduating Seniors" and it's basically the same list.
posted by griphus at 6:07 AM on February 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


#8. I wish I'd had a threesome.
posted by swift at 6:09 AM on February 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


"Never did anal" inexplicably missing.


Not surprisingly, "Wish I didn't do so much anal" is absent.
posted by entropone at 6:09 AM on February 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


It's a list of the regrets of graduating seniors either way, isn't it?
posted by feloniousmonk at 6:09 AM on February 2, 2012 [20 favorites]


I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Mathilda: Is life always this hard, or is it just when you're a kid?

Léon: Always like this.
posted by three blind mice at 6:10 AM on February 2, 2012 [20 favorites]


No "I wish I'd done this sooner" ?
posted by Thorzdad at 6:11 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Wish I'd spent less time sober" is oddly absent as well.
posted by jonmc at 6:14 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

The idea of retirement puzzles me, always. Why would you spend so many years doing something you don't want to do anymore?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:15 AM on February 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


so you can not do it anymore!
posted by meows at 6:16 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


My only regret is... that I have... boneitis.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:17 AM on February 2, 2012 [19 favorites]


I can't believe I ate the whole thing.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:19 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


The idea of retirement puzzles me, always. Why would you spend so many years doing something you don't want to do anymore?

Seriously, fuck this attitude that keeps people working until they die. If I could I would retire today, but I don't because I've got fucking bills to pay. Most people don't get to work jobs they love so much they never want to quit and that's FINE because work isn't life.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:19 AM on February 2, 2012 [54 favorites]


Why would you spend so many years doing something you don't want to do anymore?
An American businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied only a little while. The American then asked why didn't he stay out longer and catch more fish?
The Mexican said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs.

The American then asked, but what do you do with the rest of your time?

The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life, senor."

The American scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat, with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution.

You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise."

The Mexican fisherman asked, "But senor, how long will this all take?"

To which the American replied, "15-20 years."

"But what then, senor?"

The American laughed and said "That's the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions."

"Millions, senor? Then what?"

The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."
posted by empath at 6:20 AM on February 2, 2012 [273 favorites]


Why would you spend so many years doing something you don't want to do anymore?

"You know what I did today? Nothing. I did absolutely nothing today. I did absolutely nothing all day and it was everything I thought it could be."
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:20 AM on February 2, 2012 [12 favorites]


1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Fine. If "others" are people in the bar. Not fine if "others" are you children, parents, spouse, or people who actually do depend on you to a degree. You are not alone in this world, and damn it, you ARE part of something bigger than yourself. The cost is others' expectations, the pay off is sharing with Others.

Damn linkbait articles with their trivialization of real discussion points.
posted by DigDoug at 6:21 AM on February 2, 2012 [20 favorites]


"Wish I'd spent less time sober" is oddly absent as well.

Even if I never have another drink, banish the thought, I will not be having that particular regret.

Why would you spend so many years doing something you don't want to do anymore?

The answer "I wish I hadn't worked so hard" suggests that the people saying it had a choice and the realization that they made a bad choice is hard to avoid when you're standing at death's door. I mean if you die with unspent retirement funds in the bank you can literally put a figure on the amount of bad choice you made in your life.
posted by three blind mice at 6:26 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was going to congratulate myself on the certainty that I will not regret having worked too hard. Then it occurred to me that any people who regret not having worked harder probably wouldn't have a palliative care nurse to make note of it.

Or they could be living in Canada, where palliative care nurses are provided for all patients with terminal disease regardless of how hard they've worked. Damn that socialism sucks, eh?
posted by reformedjerk at 6:27 AM on February 2, 2012 [32 favorites]


The list:
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.


I look at that and I think damn, I'm doing pretty ok.
I was expecting to feel sadder after reading this, but no I feel pretty darn happy.
posted by Theta States at 6:27 AM on February 2, 2012 [15 favorites]


4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

...and not relied on Facebook's news feed so much.
posted by gman at 6:29 AM on February 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


Not fine if "others" are you children, parents, spouse, or people who actually do depend on you to a degree.

I have a friend who's a successful artist. If he'd listened to his family, his dad in particular, he'd probably have been a middle manager. Actually, he'd probably be laid off right about now.
posted by fleetmouse at 6:30 AM on February 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


#35 I was I had uploaded my brain to the internet.
posted by drezdn at 6:35 AM on February 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


Empath, thanks for that story. I hadn't heard it since the last time I looked at the wall of a Jimmy Johns.
posted by cirrostratus at 6:36 AM on February 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


I look at that and I think damn, I'm doing pretty ok.
I was expecting to feel sadder after reading this, but no I feel pretty darn happy.


Sadly I look at it and already have ALL these regrets and, hopefully, I am only half way through my life. It may be a trivial list and obnoxious in the filtered way lists can be but it may help someone like myself.
posted by mrgroweler at 6:36 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


You lulzy folks are not as funny as you think you are.
posted by aught at 6:36 AM on February 2, 2012 [17 favorites]


I have a friend who's a successful artist. If he'd listened to his family, his dad in particular, he'd probably have been a middle manager. Actually, he'd probably be laid off right about now.

fleet: Yep. It's a trade off. Good for your friend. Not good for the jackass that fails to pay child support so he can "follow his dream". Anecdotes abound. On both sides. That's why this trite list of pat answers is infuriatin'

and not relied on Facebook's news feed so much.

Man, I catch myself feeling like I'm "keeping in touch" with a lot of people just from facebook. And I KNOW it's bullshit. But it's sooo much easier.
posted by DigDoug at 6:37 AM on February 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


  1. I wish I'd studied harder in school.
  2. I wish I'd learned another language.
  3. I wish I'd traveled more.
  4. I wish I'd taken more risks.
  5. I wish I'd been smarter with my finances.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:38 AM on February 2, 2012 [13 favorites]


#42 I wish I had been more funnier than I thought I was.
posted by panboi at 6:38 AM on February 2, 2012 [17 favorites]


Then it occurred to me that any people who regret not having worked harder probably wouldn't have a palliative care nurse to make note of it.

This is Australia we're talking about.

As far as I can tell palliative care is provided on the basis of need.
posted by philipy at 6:41 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


And death will be a sweet release from this life without sex.

Checking the user's profile made this sort of funny.
posted by codacorolla at 6:42 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


DigDoug -- I find that Facebook (and G+) has been useful for reconnecting me with old friends and being able to maintain a tenuous minimal threshold of interaction, but it must be supplemented by actually face-to-face conversation. Like many other forms of technology: it's an effort multiplier and an assist, but an effort level of 0 still multiplies into nothing.
posted by bl1nk at 6:43 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Checking the user's profile made this sort of funny.

I wish my life had not led me to the point where I saw that coming from a mile away.
posted by griphus at 6:44 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, i've got three out of five. Not bad.
posted by ouke at 6:45 AM on February 2, 2012


Why would you spend so many years doing something you don't want to do anymore?

Unfortunately, having all the pieces fall into place just right so that one can spend their entire life doing what they want (and still be able to afford to live) just doesn't happen for a lot of people. Life isn't as self-directed as we like to tell ourselves.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:50 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


After reading the article I am definitely leaving work early to pick up my daughter from school.
posted by TedW at 6:52 AM on February 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, the idea of regrets on death bed frightens me, but not for the usual reasons.

There's no question that I already wish I had done somethings in my life differently. But I've made my peace with most of those things and moved on or done things to make correct those regrets.

Make peace with yourself and your past and get on with what you have left. Your deathbed is too precious to fretting over regrets, you should be working on how to get laid.


Unfortunately, having all the pieces fall into place just right so that one can spend their entire life doing what they want (and still be able to afford to live) just doesn't happen for a lot of people.</em.

Understandable, but at at certain point, I think you have to tally up what you've done and say "Ok, this is what it is. Time to accept it or change it."

posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:53 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am happy to say that I don't have any of those five regrets. Mine run more along the line of, I wish I had studied science so that I could have gone into space; I wish that I had learned how to play keyboards; I wish that I had taken myself more seriously as an artist. Otherwise I do pretty well. And there is still time to learn keyboards, and travel, and do more painting, and so on.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:55 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


aught: yes we are.
posted by jonmc at 6:55 AM on February 2, 2012


Fine. If "others" are people in the bar. Not fine if "others" are you children, parents, spouse, or people who actually do depend on you to a degree. You are not alone in this world, and damn it, you ARE part of something bigger than yourself. The cost is others' expectations, the pay off is sharing with Others.

Your own actions play a substantial role in forming the expectations of others. This regret is closely associated with "I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings". "Closely associated" is, if anything, putting it too lightly, they are largely identical.
posted by BigSky at 6:56 AM on February 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


A Bit of Fry and Laurie did an excruciating but poignant sketch on the theme of regret in old age: Berent's Cocoa (YouTube link).

My own wish is definitely #1 on the original list. I wish bitterly that I'd had the confidence and insight at university age to break away from the family script - that I was to become some kind of science academic - when my real aptitude and interests are in literature and music. It would have saved me years depressed in increasingly dull bottle-washing jobs clinging to the idea that I'd somehow miraculously become a professor of something scientific.
posted by raygirvan at 6:56 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


My mum was a palliative nurse and she told me once that the dying are great councilors. And when she herself was dying I found that she was so right. She counselled me (us) right through her death, her passing was still unbearable though, but each of us got to know each other so much more.
posted by mattoxic at 6:56 AM on February 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


What about the people who wished they'd worked harder because they are worried about leaving their family behind with insufficient savings or safety net? I'm sure there are plenty of those.
posted by gaspode at 7:01 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Your deathbed is too precious to fretting over regrets, you should be working on how to get laid.

That reminds me of one of my favorite one-liners:
"I hope to die in bed at the age of 95; shot by a jealous husband."
posted by TedW at 7:02 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fine. If "others" are people in the bar. Not fine if "others" are you children, parents, spouse, or people who actually do depend on you to a degree. You are not alone in this world, and damn it, you ARE part of something bigger than yourself. The cost is others' expectations, the pay off is sharing with Others.

They're relationships, not suicide pacts.

It's perfectly acceptable to let other people down. They'll get over it. or won't. Whatever. Fuck em if they can't take a joke.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:05 AM on February 2, 2012 [15 favorites]


Well, this list reminded me to call a friend in hospital, so there's that.
posted by Harald74 at 7:05 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


1. I wish I was a little bit taller
2. I wish I was a baller
3. I wish I had a girl who looked good, I would call her
4. I wish I had a rabbit in a hat with a bat
5. I wish I had my way
posted by spicynuts at 7:12 AM on February 2, 2012 [68 favorites]


I already have those regrets. But I take some comfort in knowing I probably have the time to work on them. Probably.
posted by tommasz at 7:15 AM on February 2, 2012


After reading the article I am definitely leaving work early to pick up my daughter from school.
posted by TedW at 9:52 AM on February 2 [1 favorite +] [!]


After reading the comments I am definitely going to ask TedW why his TPS report is late.
posted by TedW'sBoss at 10:16 AM on February 2 [1 favorite +] [!]
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:20 AM on February 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think this is supposed to inspire the fear of death and the passion for life in us. The fact that it inspires snark instead is, frankly, an indication of its poor quality and triteness.

Some considerations:

1. A regret is just an act of hypocrisy, a wish to have had our cake and eaten it, too. Because we don't really know what regrets we would have had in the counterfactual, regret is largely a fantasy of another life. Why should we credit someone's last thoughts over the ones that guided them throughout life? There's not actually any particularly good reason to believe we are wiser when faced with imminent death, acute pain, and possibly cloudy from drugs.

2. Indeed, you rarely hear "In Morphine, Veritas." If they died with a palliative care nurse, these patients were likely on pain killers and not thinking particularly clearly. Narcotics like codeine definitely have side effects that include mood swings and extremes of happiness and sadness.

3. She's trying to sell a book and cash in on the demand for maudlin reminders of mortality. What she writes is more likely to be guided by what sells than what's true.

4. In selling their stories, she's also profiting from the private confessions of her patients. If she sought permission from their estates, that's only ghoulish. If she's not sharing the profits, it's exploitative as well.

5. It is, however, quite useful to confront the fact that you and I will die someday. YOUR OWN reflections on that fact can likely help you to prioritize, because it is YOUR life and YOUR death. That's why there's a market for such confessions. But if you substitute your own reflections for Ware's or her patients, you're not really confronting the possibility of your own death: you're fetishizing the reflections of somebody else. How boring and inauthentic do you have to be in order to need someone else to do your mortality reflection for you?
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:21 AM on February 2, 2012 [37 favorites]


I kind of like this list. First, because it is all on one page, so we don't have to have that discussion, and second second because no one is going to pop in and say "that is totally wrong. I died and didn't have any of those regrets."

Or, if someone does, I am going to be moderately surprised.

I, of course, aim to have none of these regrets, but I will probably come up with some variations on them nevertheless.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:23 AM on February 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


After reading the comments I am definitely going to ask TedW why his TPS report is late.
posted by TedW'sBoss at 10:16 AM on February 2 [1 favorite +] [!]


I emailed it yesterday; it must have gotten lost in the switch from Groupwise to Outlook.
posted by TedW at 7:24 AM on February 2, 2012


Not Regrets but Wishes at Age 50--
1. I wish I had been nicer to my mother.
2. I wish I had traveled more when I was less unfettered.
3. I wish I had listened to more music and gone to more concerts.
4. I wish I had wasted ZERO minutes on dating and relationships and fretting about them.
5. I wish I had done more physical stuff (tennis, quilting, piano playing, baseball, whatever) when I was more physically able.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:24 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


er, more unfettered (less fettered)
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:25 AM on February 2, 2012


Lists like these are useful indetermining the mindset of the dying, but they lack the complete perspective of the decision-making context. It's necessary to strike a balance, if possible, while still in your youth.

I'm personally at a very critical time in my life regarding these matters - I'm 37 in May, I have a masters degree in (urban) planning, I have an almost-2-year-old daughter, a pregnant wife, a sizeable mortgage, and an interesting job in my field that is nevertheless somewhat underachieving and pays a little below what I'd ideally like.

I get quite regular career advice and assumptions around me that I should and will move up to jobs with more responsibility and more pay. But, I can afford my life now. I leave work at 4:30 and the managers are still there. A lot of them are divorced, or have no children to begin with. I have reduced stresses and they look constantly bleary-eyed despite me who has the toddler.

I'm not sure I want to move up. I see my kids. I sleep at night. Right now I'm the happiest I've probably ever been.

I often joke with my friends that I can never die with regrets because I never bought that condo in Yaletown in Vancouver that I got talked out of - $160K for a 1br warehouse conversion in 2001. Well, I have since realized that it would probably have been a lot of stress for me, carrying it while I was still in my 20s and living in Victoria and Calgary in later years. The perspective of being older doesn't necessarily bring infinite wisdom.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:25 AM on February 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Not fine if "others" are you children, parents, spouse, or people who actually do depend on you to a degree. You are not alone in this world, and damn it, you ARE part of something bigger than yourself.

For some people, though, "living a life true to yourself" may include "not having children in the first place" or "not marrying the person whom you deep-down think may not be the one for you, but getting married will get society off your back."

So sometimes if one lived a live true to one's self, there would not be children or a spouse who would be inconvenienced by that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:27 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


They all read rather like cliché's to me. If Hallmark cards wrote the list; thats exactly what I'd expect to see. Though, apparently real people speak like trashy movie scripts. At least I won't regret knowing any of these type of people.
posted by 13twelve at 7:27 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


When Steve Jobs was dying, he did the opposite of all that. Since he obviously had all the money in the world, and he knew his time was capped. Clearly it was what he wanted to be doing. Maybe some people like their jobs and want to make the biggest impact on the world as they can.
posted by delmoi at 7:28 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


#49 Never bought one of these.
posted by panboi at 7:28 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jobs certainly made an impact on China!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:30 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wish that I had let myself be happier.

I'm struggling a little to believe that anyone actually said that, whatever it means. It sounds more like what Ware thinks they ought to have said.


Huh. To me, this sounds like the most plausible one - or at least the one where there's the most possibility for not having it as a regret.

Although I am weirdly reminded of Peter Beagle's deeply underappreciated fantasy novel The Last Unicorn (seriously, the dialogue is funny, none of the main characters are who you'd expect in a fantasy novel, it's fundamentally kind of sad and - given that it was written by a guy in his twenties and is pretty much a book for teens and younger adults - it is much more sophisticated than almost anything around)....[SPOILER, although it's not really the sort of book that gets spoiled that way]...the unicorn, returned to her original form, says at the end that she is the only unicorn who will ever know regret, and this is what she gained and what changed her from her time as a human.

You could maybe argue that regrets are what constitute us.

Although I often say to myself "I won't lie on my death bed and regret [giving someone money/doing a favor/doing something a bit scary]" as a way to motivate myself.
posted by Frowner at 7:33 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


#50 I wish I'd given more favorites.
posted by crunchland at 7:33 AM on February 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


The fact that it inspires snark instead is, frankly, an indication of its poor quality and triteness.

Or it's simply a reflection of the fact that it was posted on the internet.

Or probably both.
posted by inigo2 at 7:33 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Reading these lists makes me pretty happy - almost all of the biggies are things I do not regret at all. I've seen vast swathes of this planet, I have always tried not to work too hard (work smart), I've learned languages and had rich cultural experiences, I spend a lot of time with my kids and my excellent family...

Here are mine, if I go tomorrow:

1. I wish I had spent more time stoned.
2. I wish I had fucked more women.
3. I wish I had had a deeper relationship with my dad.

The grandpa in Little Miss Sunshine is dead right.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:33 AM on February 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Regarding #1 and #3, society, go take a long walk off a short pier.
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 7:35 AM on February 2, 2012


I guess 9:00 at the office would be a bad time to take action and make this list happen, right?
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:42 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


My favourite part is one of the comments:

"I want to spend £250 to be a zookeeper for a day at a highland wildlife park thats got tigers and that polar bear that was on frozen planet. My wife reminded me she's pregnant and we might need money for stuff. Im printing this article out to show her what needs to happen”

I think that’s beautiful. Confronted by mortality and regret and a profound understanding of what matters in life, this man has taken a good long look at himself and realised that what he needs to do more than anything is leave his pregnant wife at home, dress up as a zookeeper and feed a polar bear that’s been on telly. It just goes to show, wisdom comes in many forms.
posted by him at 7:43 AM on February 2, 2012 [33 favorites]


Anotherpanacea (eponysterical??) pretty much nails it. Nothing else to discuss, really.
posted by spicynuts at 7:44 AM on February 2, 2012


It just goes to show, wisdom comes in many forms.

I can't tell if you've missed the brilliant sarcasm of the original comment or if you are layering more of it on. If the latter, I have to say the original commenter wins.
posted by spicynuts at 7:46 AM on February 2, 2012


#97 Too much cowbell
posted by hermitosis at 7:47 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


"I want to spend £250 to be a zookeeper for a day at a highland wildlife park thats got tigers and that polar bear that was on frozen planet. My wife reminded me she's pregnant and we might need money for stuff. Im printing this article out to show her what needs to happen”

Wait, you can pay money to be an amateur zookeeper for a day to polar bears? I hope they get the money up front.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:48 AM on February 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


Life isn't as self-directed as we like to tell ourselves.

You're right if you continue to tell yourself that you are not in charge of your life. There are trade-offs in choosing a self-directed life. Most people are trapped by their own materialism, co-dependency and lack of commitment to their own ideals.
posted by txmon at 7:48 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's interesting that lists like these are used as sort of a hedge - a way to make even death fit neatly into the practical middle class approach to capitalism. They turn death into just one more thing where you have a checklist - Make sure I don't regret not calling mom! Make sure I don't regret not going to Hawai'i! And they extend death through life, right? Your whole life becomes an exercise in "how shall I prepare to regret nothing on my deathbed?" When by contrast you could frame it as "how shall I live according to a particular ethical code" or "how shall I be happy in the now" or "how shall I bend others to my will?" or "how shall I reshape as much of the world as possible?" Curious that these regret lists are really a way of expanding the power and dread of death. I wonder if it's because of the decline of religion - that since we can no longer imagine anything much beyond death, we have to gussy up the literal moment of death itself.
posted by Frowner at 7:49 AM on February 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


Sometimes I think I will regret all the movies I'll never get to watch when I die. I love movies, so that makes me sad.
posted by Malice at 7:51 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


You're right if you continue to tell yourself that you are not in charge of your life. There are trade-offs in choosing a self-directed life. Most people are trapped by their own materialism, co-dependency and lack of commitment to their own ideals.

I'll stop being trapped by own materialism when my landlord stops being trapped by hers.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:52 AM on February 2, 2012 [19 favorites]


I have a friend who's a successful artist. If he'd listened to his family, his dad in particular, he'd probably have been a middle manager.

And if he's listened to the advice to relax more and not work so hard, he'd be an unsuccessful artist.
posted by escabeche at 7:59 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


“They say on your deathbed you never wish you spent more time at the office... But I will... It’s gotta be a lot better than a deathbed. I don’t even understand death beds. Who would ever buy one?”

-Michael Scott
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:59 AM on February 2, 2012 [14 favorites]


If they died with a palliative care nurse, these patients were likely on pain killers and not thinking particularly clearly. Narcotics like codeine definitely have side effects that include mood swings and extremes of happiness and sadness.

Look, it was either the list we got, or:

1) Owwwwwww.
2) Goddammit!
3) OWWWWWW.
4) MotherFUCK!
5) FUCKGODDAMMIT OWWWW!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:10 AM on February 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's interesting that lists like these are used as sort of a hedge - a way to make even death fit neatly into the practical middle class approach to capitalism. They turn death into just one more thing where you have a checklist - Make sure I don't regret not calling mom! Make sure I don't regret not going to Hawai'i!

Okay, it's poor form to quote oneself, but I realized that I hadn't expressed my thought very well (and lord knows I don't want to regret that...):

With the checklist/bucket lists, it's as though you're doing stuff not because of the things themselves but because of the list - so the things you do become hollowed out, a kind of conformity/obedience. You're calling mom not because you want to call mom but because you don't want your future self (who may be a totally different person) to regret not calling mom. Calling mom is a kind of insurance against the future.

This does fit in very much with the cultural stuff about the rise of the middle class - deferred gratification, acquisition of goods/experiences as a way of expressing identity or status, studying codes of manners and rules as major way of managing the shifting aspects of modern life and the precarity of middle class existence. It's not that "that's middle class" should be read as an insult; it's a descriptor that allows you to situate something in culture and history, to assign it some causes rather than assume it's internal and "natural"

Although here's a thing: Back in like 2004 I was reading a Doris Lessing book (the two related novels that are published together, Diary of a Good Neighbor and the other one). I think Doris Lessing is kind of a fascist, but anyway...the novels are about the relationships between a very successful career woman in late middle age - who has always put her career and her self first and who was recently widowed - and two very different elderly working class women who lived through absolutely ghastly conditions and state exploitation before the first World War. Those relationships, as you'd expect, transform the career woman's personality. But it's not a dumb book the way you'd expect. I'm not sure why. Anyway, when reading it I was moved to call my great-aunt, who I loved very much but was kind of lazy/selfish about contacting. And I did actually call her more often and visit her more often in the last few years of her life, basically because I read about the career woman's regret for the coldness of her earlier life. I enjoyed it and I'm glad I did. I miss her like crazy all the time.
posted by Frowner at 8:11 AM on February 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


I have a friend who's a successful artist. If he'd listened to his family, his dad in particular, he'd probably have been a middle manager.

That's funny, when I told my dad I wanted to go to law school he told me to take more art classes.*

*True story!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:12 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know how realistic this list is, but I sent it to my overworked girlfriend. One thing I'll never regret is that I didn't send enough passive -aggressive hints.
posted by klanawa at 8:14 AM on February 2, 2012 [11 favorites]


The last thing my mother said to me was, "Do what makes you happy." It has been both a blessing and a curse.

mainly because it's a good excuse for drinking
posted by yerfatma at 8:15 AM on February 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


"When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently," she says, "common themes surfaced again and again."

Why would a care provider ask this kind of question in the first place? Are the sick and dying comforted by reminders of their wasted lives?

One hypocrisy to always keep in mind about social class, is that people earn social status brownie points by A) earning lots of money and moving up in high status jobs, and B) simultaneously paying lots of lip service to the idea that money and good jobs are superficial and don't matter much. People do this all the time; watch for it.

This is probably just reflecting another example. These are people who worked hard enough in life to afford high quality end of life health care, and now they can have their cake too by showing off how good and deeply non-materialistic they are on the inside.

That's why the nurse asks this odd question, it's not really about regrets, but a sneaky opportunity for the patient to think about themselves in a positive way.
posted by dgaicun at 8:20 AM on February 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


anotherpanacea: How boring and inauthentic do you have to be in order to need someone else to do your mortality reflection for you?

So my "mortality reflection" is only authentic if I've somehow created my own regrets out of whole cloth, without reference to anyone outside myself, instead of wondering what others (especially others who have lived longer lives than I have) think/have thought about mortality? Guess I'd better toss my copy of Marcus Aurelius in the trash to avoid at all costs the faux pas of being boring.

13twelve: They all read rather like cliché's to me.

Yes, because there are no universal truths in life -- only trite catchphrases, marketing gimmicks, and bumper-sticker slogans.

dgaicun: These are people who worked hard enough in life to afford high quality end of life health care, and now they can have their cake too by showing off how good and deeply non-materialistic they are on the inside.

That's right. Only people who have lived good, non-materialistic lives or people who can't afford quality palliative care get to have moments of introspection or regret!
posted by blucevalo at 8:25 AM on February 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


...and bumper-sticker slogans.

"Sona si memento mori."
posted by griphus at 8:28 AM on February 2, 2012


They all read rather like cliché's to me. If Hallmark cards wrote the list; thats exactly what I'd expect to see. Though, apparently real people speak like trashy movie scripts.

I find that a lot of cliches are important and true ideas that you're no longer able to fully appreciate because the words are too familiar.
posted by the jam at 8:31 AM on February 2, 2012 [15 favorites]


1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

I think this could also be true as "... not the life that I perceived others expected of me."

Often when you finally make a change in your life that is true to yourself, the "others" say, "I wondered when you would finally do that!"
posted by Kabanos at 8:36 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Look, it was either the list we got, or:

1) Owwwwwww.
2) Goddammit!
3) OWWWWWW.
4) MotherFUCK!
5) FUCKGODDAMMIT OWWWW!


You forgot "Hey guys, watch this!"
posted by TedW at 8:46 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


1. I wish my life was a struggle for fulfillment and happiness, instead of a struggle for survival.
2. Since #1 is apparently impossible, I wish I was stupid enough to believe that mere survival = fulfillment and happiness.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:49 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Guess I'd better toss my copy of Marcus Aurelius in the trash to avoid at all costs the faux pas of being boring.

*Yawn* Marcus Aurelius she ain't, and more's the pity.

"If it is good to you when it comes in due season, if it is the same to you whether you have done few or more acts rightly, if it makes no difference whether you contemplate the world for a long or short time—then death to you is not a terrible thing."
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:50 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Top five regrets of the dying.

...

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.


True. However, I'll spend but a single night on my deathbed and at least another 50 years with money in my pocket and interesting projects to work on.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:51 AM on February 2, 2012


Why would a care provider ask this kind of question in the first place? Are the sick and dying comforted by reminders of their wasted lives?

There is a certain comfort in speaking one's truth out loud, at long last, instead of dying without anyone even knowing how you felt.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:53 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm working really hard to not have any regrets in my life, but as it stands right now this would be my regret if I died today:

I wish I could have been more honest with my loved ones about my lack of belief in God.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:55 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hm. If I died today, I wouldn't really have any regrets about my actions; I have regrets about not having as many choices as I would like (in terms of what I've had to do as work to survive) but I don't regard that as my fault.

Overall, I try to do the best I can with what I've got, I screw up occasionally, but I'm a law-abiding peaceful citizen with a strong work ethic and a conscience, who does her best by family and friends, and that keeps me from being a complete asshole most of the time.

What else should I be expecting of myself, honestly?
posted by emjaybee at 9:03 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Pogo_Fuzzybutt : "They're relationships, not suicide pacts.

It's perfectly acceptable to let other people down. They'll get over it. or won't. Whatever. Fuck em if they can't take a joke.
"

Try being abandoned by a mother who goes to follow her bliss when you are 4 years old, and tell me again how funny this joke is.
posted by idiopath at 9:06 AM on February 2, 2012 [11 favorites]


They're relationships, not suicide pacts.

It's perfectly acceptable to let other people down. They'll get over it. or won't. Whatever. Fuck em if they can't take a joke.


Absolutely. But what I read into over simplified statements like 1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. is, "I sacrificed so much."

When people so easily forget what the payoff for the sacrifice really was. My dad gave up his dream to be a pilot so he could get a crappy job to take care of the dumb accident he made at 18. I really hope (and mean REALLY REALLY REALLY) he doesn't regret "giving up on that dream" to do what was right at the time. We've let each other down countless times in nearly 40 years, but not about the stuff that matters. (again, "I hope") And it all started with him doing what was expected of him, by others. Not what he wanted. I know it's anecdotal. But it plays out in every family, in every relationship, of every person who's not sociopathic. There's more to life than just you. You matter. You are not all that matters.
posted by DigDoug at 9:07 AM on February 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


I regret beating that antiques dealer to death back in Tangiers.

I regret getting hooked on the dried meat of the black centipede.

I regret not sticking with my music lessons.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:13 AM on February 2, 2012 [20 favorites]


Working too hard will never be a regret I have.
posted by zzazazz at 9:33 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's interesting that lists like these are used as sort of a hedge - a way to make even death fit neatly into the practical middle class approach to capitalism. They turn death into just one more thing where you have a checklist - Make sure I don't regret not calling mom! Make sure I don't regret not going to Hawai'i!

Some laugh in the face of death, while armchair Marxists polemicize.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:35 AM on February 2, 2012


You lulzy folks are not as funny as you think you are.

Yeah, but I'm guessing they're mostly younger than me. Old seems so inconceivably far away to them. But then they'll watch their parents grow old, and their parents' friends ... and suddenly, well, it just won't seem so trivial anymore.
posted by philip-random at 9:36 AM on February 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'm not on my deathbed, but I can honestly say that there is nothing I regret. Sure, there are things that would rather have not happened, or things that I think I would have truly enjoyed if they had happened. But when it comes down to it, I love the person I am and I adore my life. Every fuck up I made, every awesome thing I didn't get to do, they all made me who I am and because of that, I don't regret them.

Not a single one.
posted by teleri025 at 9:42 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


KokoRyu, did you read the followup to that post?
posted by en forme de poire at 9:45 AM on February 2, 2012


As I read and type this my mom is sitting in a hospital being treated for pneumonia. I rushed her in Sunday. By tomorrow she has to make up her mind does she want to go home or to a SNF or in-patient hospice. The bottom line is my dad has abused her for 40+ years and all I wanted was for her to be happy and in peace. Her spirit is dead. She's losing control of her bowls because of the meds. She has zero muscle left, its' all skin. How the scale is saying a 5'2" woman is weighing 109lbs is beyond me. I once weighed 109 at 5'5". I think she weighs 85lbs. She's dizzy, disoriented, panicing, depressed, scared, and just friggen tired. She hates my dad. She wants to just die. She's begging me to bring her sleeping pills. Staff is aware of the home situation and by telling them I made things worse.

I thought if I can get her to an in-patient hospice she can end things on her terms, be away from my dad, and at least have some peace in her life.

But then I went to the hospice. It was nice and all so nothing against it but it also wasn't my mom. THIS was a place for her to die. I am highly against shoving elderly in a nursing home. It's expensive, strange, lonley, and lots of risks when you are in her state. It's not like some happy retirment home where she'll be dancing and playing bingo. I saw people in wheelchairs, oxygen tubes, etc. I can't drive up to the building and say "well here you go mom."

So, despite my best intentions on fixing 50 years of pain for her, I told the doctors and social services, let her go home if that's what she wants. She is interpreting my help as shoving her in a nursing home to die, be alone, etc. It's scaring her. I don't want her to be scared. We will get her hospice in home if need be. She needs to be 100% comfortable iwth saying that it's ok to stop treatment. Six years of everything is enough. She thinks by saying so she is going to be put in a mental facility. I told her she has every right to say she wants to die and be done with treatment. No one will hold that against her.

My focus is now on my dad who is in beyond denial that stopping treatment or even her continuing, this is a huge tide for the worse. Her spirit is gone and it won't be too long. LET HER REST. If she wants to sleep. Let her sleep. His way of get up and fight it; move around isn't working in her condition. We have transitioned over to a walker, letting her sleep when she wants, have her stop cooking, do the laundry, etc. UNLESS she 100% wants to. If it takes him not speaking to her, then let it. His pushing is too much for her. THAT is killing her.

I know 1,000% my mom's biggest regret is marrying and staying with my father. I tried so hard in 2 days to fix all of that by giving her options that may be right but they're not right for her. Nothing she has gone through can be solved in 2 days, in a SNF, etc. And for that I'm sorry. I am so protective of her because I couldn't stop the abuse in 40 years I thought I could in 2 days. But I made things worse for her.

All I have learned from her life is careful who you bring into it, especially marriage/a relationship. A person can make or break you.
posted by stormpooper at 9:47 AM on February 2, 2012 [15 favorites]


As for myself, I really need to get more cowbell in my life.
posted by stormpooper at 9:50 AM on February 2, 2012


I don't think that it should be surprising that an internet top list isn't satisfactorily adressing a discussion that philosophers have been struggling with forever.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:50 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Father, what does regret mean?"

"Well, son, a funny thing about regret is, that it's always better to regret something you have done, than to regret something you haven't done. And by the way, if you see your mom this weekend, be sure and tell her 'Satan! Satan! Satan!'"

Butthole Surfers, "Sweat Loaf"
posted by chavenet at 9:51 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


"There were a couple of women I should have screwed that I didn't, there were a couple of ramps I wish I had hit a bit faster. But apart from that, I have had a good life."

"God, never made a tougher son of a bitch than me. No king or prince has lived a better life. I faced every challenge that came along. I have no regrets."


-Evel Kneivel
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:51 AM on February 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


I wish I had spent more time with dogs and less time with people.

That would have pretty much taken care of nearly every other wish.
posted by HuronBob at 9:55 AM on February 2, 2012 [15 favorites]


(armchair Marxists polemicize

I always wonder how one transitions from "armchair Marxist" to some other kind. Like, do you literally have to run a marxist state or can you just engage in social justice and community activism based on marxist principles? Not that I personally am a marxist, of course. And I would classify myself more as an "in bed reading the internet anarchist" since honestly the armchairs at my house are not as comfortable for loafing.)
posted by Frowner at 10:01 AM on February 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


My biggest regret would that the people who love me would grieve, that they would go through the five stages of grief.

I know lots of people who have lost someone, and they go through varying degrees of sadness. The closest people to me that I've lost were my grandparents and my father-in-law, and while I'm sad that they're gone I know that no amount of sadness will either bring them back or honor their memory.

I have a friend from long ago who just lost someone very close to her, a month ago, and she is miserable. And all I can think of is that I wouldn't want anyone to be that miserable over me.

When it's my time to go, I want everyone to have a party and remember the happy parts of life. I want them to wear Hawaiian shirts to my funeral and play new wave music from the 80's. I want them to smile and tell jokes about me and their favorite stupid things that I say and do all the time. I don't want them to rage against the world or God or whoever, or feel like their own life is over. My second biggest regret would be in not seeing the future, and I want all of my loved ones to run into that future head on with a smile on their face and a spring in their step. And my third biggest regret would not being able to share it with them.
posted by no relation at 10:01 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm glad we've been able to distill the reflective despair of the morituri into a Cracked.com-style list.

What's wrong with lists exactly? In fact, what's wrong with Cracked.com? You could just as easily say the following 3 things:

1) I'm glad the Bible was able to distill Christian principles of ethics and worship into a Cracked.com-style list

2) I'm glad Martin Luther was able to distill his objections to the Catholic Church into a Cracked.com-style list

3) I'm glad the US was able to distill the inalienable rights of its citizens into a Cracked.com-style list
posted by Hoopo at 10:06 AM on February 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Man, I catch myself feeling like I'm "keeping in touch" with a lot of people just from facebook. And I KNOW it's bullshit. But it's sooo much easier.

The questions there are:

1) if you didn't interact with them on Facebook (or G+ or Twitter or Tumblr or whatever), would you interact with them at all?

2) does your interaction with them on Facebook prevent you from interacting with them more "in real life"?

I don't know why people seem to think "keeping in touch" requires telephone conversations. I hate talking on the telephone. So for remote friends, how do you "keep in touch"? The Internet (email, IM, social networking, skype). And Facebook messaging is not so much different than Gmail or any email really.

I guess I'm saying what's so bad about keeping in touch with friends on Facebook? There are lots of people I love that I would never interact with without Facebook. And you know what? Before they were on Facebook, I didn't. I mean, how is it any different than AT&T or the US Postal Service (which I also both use occasionally to "keep in touch" with distant friends), etc? *shrug*
posted by mrgrimm at 10:11 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm just glad Hoopo was able to distill a list of Cracked.com-style lists of culturally relevant items into a Cracked.com-style list.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 10:11 AM on February 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


Three things I won't ever regret ...

Doing acid (the first 22 times)

Driving 120 mph on the 1-5 at dawn, just north of Sacramento, ON ACID, listening to Yes' Close To The Edge, cranked to the f***ing elevens.

Not getting engaged to [name withheld] even tho everyone was sure it was going to happen.
posted by philip-random at 10:16 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


What's wrong with lists exactly?

Nothing inherently, but this one seems especially dubious. This is a specific nurse working with specific patients in a specific environment (likely all the same social class as well), and the gist of the coverage is trying to treat it as some giant global survey.

There was no mention of more sex

Is that because participants probably weren't comfortable talking about sex? I mean "no" mention? Is that because it is covered in #1 (I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself) in regard to sexual expression. I mean, there are no gay people who wish they had come out earlier? Is that not "more sex"?

Also, no regrets about not living a little bit longer to see kids or grandkids graduate, get married, etc? That would be my one regret (assuming I'm mental capable enough to regret things.) It's a different sort of "regret" than evaluation of past behavior, but it's still a regret, as well as the one no relation mentions--the effect of my illness and death on my friends and family.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:17 AM on February 2, 2012


Three things I won't ever regret ...

That is a much funner project.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:17 AM on February 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


> I'm not on my deathbed, but I can honestly say that there is nothing I regret.

Well, see that's the thing. You're not on your deathbed. Knowledge of certain, imminent death often brings a particular clarity to people and certain events in their life stand out in sharp relief. It's not even close to the state you're in when everything is fine and you're feeling relatively invincible.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:17 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Three things I won't ever regret ...

That is a much funner project.
posted by mrgrimm at 6:17 PM on February 2


Agreed. So.

1. Not having children.
2. Quitting a job. Especially the one I quit in 2009.
3. Being a drinker.
posted by Decani at 10:22 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


trying to treat it as some giant global survey.

Now I'm picturing some poor saps at Gallup cold-calling houses to ask if anyone in the house is on their death bed and would they be willing to answer a few questions.
posted by Hoopo at 10:24 AM on February 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

Yes, and they died because they did not have positive thoughts....


What a load of crock.
posted by Pendragon at 10:24 AM on February 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm a hospice nurse and though I am only person, most of my patient's by far don't seem to have any huge regrets. I don't think it's mandatory to die all sad and regretful, many people die satisfied and knowing they did the best they could. I do wish that more people would have explicit conversations about final wishes with their families, don't make them try to guess what you want done, tell them!
posted by yodelingisfun at 10:24 AM on February 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Three Things I Won't Ever Regret:

1- Finishing what I start.
2-
posted by griphus at 10:34 AM on February 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

I once worked with somebody who had informally cared for an old woman at the end of her life, and told me the most heartfelt story. One day, as she neared death, and was alone with her carer, the old woman asked that a certain box be brought out from a cupboard. From the box she pulled a few tatty old photographs of a happy young man, some with a woman in arm. "Before my parents forced me to be the daughter they expected and get married," she said, "this young man was me. Almost my whole life as an adult has been inimical to my being. My husband, my children, my friends: none want to know or can accept the truth, they hide away from it. I don't expect telling you this will take away the pain and regret of how I have been forced to live my life, as these are my burdens. But the truth is not my burden, for so long as others know it, I have done right by the truth." My workmate said she felt she now had that burden to tell anybody who would listen; and I won't lie that I too have told the story several times just to do right to that dying man's truth.
posted by Jehan at 10:35 AM on February 2, 2012 [17 favorites]


I regret this comment isn't more interesting.
posted by fuq at 10:42 AM on February 2, 2012


If I were to get diagnosed with a terminal disease right now, of course I would regret working so much. But it's not like I work that many hours, it's just that my working now is meant to provide my future children and my future retired self with money and options later. That's the problem with this 'survey'.

These old people dying wish that they hadn't worked so hard, but you know what? Those old men are not the same people as they were when they were middle aged. Perhaps we can say they didn't make the right choices to ensure that they never had any regrets, but really, few of us can afford to live as if there's no tomorrow. To apply that kind of perspective on the entirety of your life is probably always going to ring a little false.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 10:42 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


"If it is good to you when it comes in due season, if it is the same to you whether you have done few or more acts rightly, if it makes no difference whether you contemplate the world for a long or short time—then death to you is not a terrible thing."

"No, you do not have thousands of years to live. Urgency is on you. While you live, while you can, become good."

Since we're throwing down with the quotes and all.
posted by blucevalo at 10:45 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


So on my dad's deathbed, we were reading to him from his collections of poems. And he held up one of his books, a collection of 400 poems, and he said, "There are 20 or 30 poems in here that are as good as any poems anybody's ever written." And he smiled.

I loved that moment so much, just because Dad was really conscious of his achievements. And also that he was so precise about it. Not, "I'm the greatest poet ever!" but "I really hit the bull's eye 5% of the time" which is actually a pretty good average for poetry.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:47 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

There is a third way, which is the truly freeing one. Align your living so that what people expect from you is to live a life that's true to yourself. People in your sphere of influence have a human right to expect certain things of you, but it's entirely possible that to live within these expectations can be the thing that is true to you.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:52 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's funny, when I told my dad I wanted to go to law school he told me to take more art classes.*

Well, I thought about The Army
Dad said "Son, you're fuckin' high..."
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:00 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think that critiques to the effect of 'THIS ONE PERSON'S ANECDATA ISN'T A REPRESENTATIVE CLINICAL STUDY' are kind of silly. She has a right to her anecdata, and the likelihood of any IRB ever approving a comprehensive psychological survey of hospice/palliative care patients is about zero point zero. The whole point of hospice and palliative care is to make the atmosphere of dying comfortable and respectful, which pretty much rules out people with clipboards asking reams of questions.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:01 AM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


#1. i wish i was taking them with me
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:08 AM on February 2, 2012


I REGRET NOTHING!!!

Actually, I regret making stupid jokes on Metafilter.
posted by slogger at 11:11 AM on February 2, 2012


You know, for those of you mentioning how cliched the list is, I was surprised by the cliche that wasn't on it: religion. There's nothing about how this person wished he'd gone to church more, or that woman wished she'd repented/made amends for her sins, or that anyone wished for a closer relationship with God.

Which is interesting, because that's one of the biggest cliches, that, "There are no atheists in foxholes". But apparently there ARE atheists on their deathbeds.
posted by misha at 11:12 AM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dying is easy, comedy is hard. I regret that I haven't made more people laugh.
posted by no relation at 11:15 AM on February 2, 2012


Now I'm picturing some poor saps at Gallup cold-calling houses to ask if anyone in the house is on their death bed and would they be willing to answer a few questions.

"Yes, he's on his death bed; would you like me to pass the phone to him?" will be my new standard answer to cold-call telemarketers.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:41 AM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Yes, he's on his death bed; would you like me to pass the phone to him?" will be my new standard answer to cold-call telemarketers.

Do you have any idea how often telemarketers call people who have recently died and talk to grieving family? That is the absolute worst; getting someone who is still alive, even if barely, is still better.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:46 AM on February 2, 2012


Yeah, I guess you might still make a sale.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:49 AM on February 2, 2012


misha, as far as religion goes, I wonder if that's skewed by the publication source - can't see the Guardian making too much of a thing about lost spiritual opportunities, though of course it does a bit of new-agey spiritual stuff sometimes.
posted by paduasoy at 12:04 PM on February 2, 2012


There is a third way, which is the truly freeing one. Align your living so that what people expect from you is to live a life that's true to yourself. People in your sphere of influence have a human right to expect certain things of you, but it's entirely possible that to live within these expectations can be the thing that is true to you.


That's just the second way 5 years after you change from the first.
posted by 3FLryan at 12:06 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:30 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Too few threesomes.

I can tell that's going to be a regret already, with hopefully many more healthy years ahead of me.
posted by Fister Roboto at 12:33 PM on February 2, 2012


Which is interesting, because that's one of the biggest cliches, that, "There are no atheists in foxholes". But apparently there ARE atheists on their deathbeds.

And there's another famous saying, "'There are no atheists in foxholes' isn't a criticism of atheism, it's a criticism of foxholes."

While war can be criticized as unnecessary misery and suffering that could be eliminated, death is universal and impossible to eliminate.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:40 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think I'll probably regret not getting to see the future.

From what I can tell, it's going to be awesome.
posted by MrVisible at 12:52 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


"'There are no atheists in foxholes' isn't a criticism of atheism, it's a criticism of foxholes."

Or a criticism of anthropocentrism. What about the foxes - don't they count?
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:53 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think it's just a criticism of holes.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:56 PM on February 2, 2012


Q: When I was reading Dr. Kevorkian, I was reminded a bit of a Japanese film from a couple years ago called "Afterlife."

Vonnegut: I haven't heard of it.

Q: Its premise is that those who have recently died are taken to a waiting room for one week, during which time they must choose only a single memory from their entire lives which will endlessly replay for them, while all of their other memories are erased.

Vonnegut: So everybody's fucking, right?


I never get tired of linking to this.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:00 PM on February 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


I never get tired of linking to this.

Thank you for doing it here. I hadn't seen it.
posted by DigDoug at 1:03 PM on February 2, 2012


#72 Yep. I said it before, and I'll say it again. Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you coul...... AIEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!
posted by panboi at 1:06 PM on February 2, 2012


God I hope my last words are AIEEEEEEEEE
posted by shakespeherian at 1:10 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


THE HELL I CAN'T
posted by griphus at 1:16 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


HOLD MY BEER AND WATCH THIS
posted by shakespeherian at 1:16 PM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


#20 I wish more of my wishes were were added to top-five wish lists.
posted by tpl1212 at 1:18 PM on February 2, 2012


I mean, there are no gay people who wish they had come out earlier? Is that not "more sex"?

Wow, mrgrimm. No, that's not necessarily "more sex."

How about "more time to find and spend life with someone I love"?
posted by yellowcandy at 1:27 PM on February 2, 2012


Does it matter what's on this particular list? People read it because they want to know what the really important things are to do before they're gone? But it references other people's ideas, as transmitted by one person. Really there is nothing that prevents you from taking stock of your own life and answering your own questions.

That's one of the big reasons I go camping and hiking in the wilderness a few times a year. Cut off from your daily routine, you can sit down and take stock. The forest has been there before you were, and will be there after you're gone. It doesn't care. You're just a tiny blip in time, a temporary arrangement of cells. Sitting there, looking around, is like being born and dying all in a few moments of time. It comes naturally then, to take stock of where you are in life, and where you'd like to be. But also, you take in the present as vividly as you can without distractions, because that particular combination of leaves floating in the stream and the bird flying overhead at that very moment, will never be repeated, it is as unique and fleeting as all of life is, and the best you can do is to try to affix it in your memory before you move on and back to your own life concerns. I don't need special contemplations bound by the deathbed. I have those experiences and contemplations every time I'm out hiking with nobody around, no special need to confine them to that one occasion.
posted by VikingSword at 2:13 PM on February 2, 2012


> The forest has been there before you were, and will be there after you're gone.

Well, maybe not at the rate things are going.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:15 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


More than once I've wondered whether I'm going to regret spending all the time I've spent on the internet or playing video games.

On my deathbed, will I be thinking, "man, those hours becoming Dragonborn and leveling up my smithing were a total waste"? Or "Durn metafilter! Years lost to cat videos and lego recreations!"

Or instead of regrets, will I still be clinging to these pasttimes? Perhaps I'll be barely holding onto my 360/720/1440 controller, playing Summerset Isles, pissed that I still have no idea why the Dunmer disappeared.

Or posting to askme, asking yet again, "halp, still haven't kicked my internet addiction...time is running out...."
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:21 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whoops. Didn't realize the slashies would do that. REGRET.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:21 PM on February 2, 2012


#6. I wish I wasn't talking with this stupid reporter from The Guardian.
posted by crunchland at 2:29 PM on February 2, 2012


> More than once I've wondered whether I'm going to regret spending all the time I've spent on the internet or playing video games.

"Do you remember Thundercats?"

I kid, because I also love time well wasted.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:36 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


>These are people who worked hard enough in life to afford high quality end of life health care, and now they can have their cake too by showing off how good and deeply non-materialistic they are on the inside.

As philipy pointed out, this article reflects the experiences of a nurse who worked in Australia, which has a national health care system, so your point doesn't really apply here.
posted by virago at 2:50 PM on February 2, 2012


These are people who worked hard enough in life to afford high quality end of life health care, and now they can have their cake too by showing off how good and deeply non-materialistic they are on the inside.

I'd also be a little surprised that on average, most people were this image-conscious on their death beds. Maybe bitter, maybe angry, maybe sad, maybe regretful, but this egomaniacal? Doesn't that take some serious energy?
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:55 PM on February 2, 2012


ya know the majority of my patients are poor, like poor poor. Hospice is covered by medicaid and medicare and honestly, it may be the best health care they ever get, which is wrong on so many levels but there you go. I don't know why people think hospice/palliative care is for the rich? I'd say I get about 5% private insurance and those tend to be the young, 10% VA which covers all hospice completely (and the vets are often quite poor) and then there's a foundation at my hospice that funds the folks who don't qualify for medicare/caid but don't have any insurance. Again, these are usually younger folks. I can accept that hospice is different in different states but i've worked in 3 now and it's been pretty similar.
posted by yodelingisfun at 3:04 PM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I mean, there are no gay people who wish they had come out earlier? Is that not "more sex"?

Wow, mrgrimm. No, that's not necessarily "more sex."

How about "more time to find and spend life with someone I love"?


Well I know plenty of elderly gay men who wish they came out sooner. For some it was for love; for some it was for sex. Everybody is different.

All I know is that when I die, one of my only regrets would be not having the sexual life I wanted earlier when I was young. I'm not gay, so bad example. I'm sorry.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:38 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hope my last words are aieeeeee

Off topic: I'm convinced my last words are going to be "oh shit" after doing something idiotic. So much so that I'm considering retraining myself to swear "I will always love my Children!"

Though it might lose its impact after the hundredth time I stub my toe.
posted by Popular Ethics at 6:34 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


I know I will regret not being cooler, more handsome, and wealthier.
posted by moonbiter at 6:34 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sadly.....The memorable single big common regret of the mostly female elderly in nursing homes was wishing they'd had kids. In the nursing homes I worked in and in the ones I visited.

But that's not a reason to have kid's. It's just sad.
posted by taff at 7:02 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


My mother, who died early, left each of us messages. She wrote us each a letter. They were Word files. She asked me to print them out and distribute them (but not read) to each person she had a file for.

There was one for my brother, my sister, myself, etc.

I looked in the folder and told my sister who all there were files for. She told my uncle he had one. When it came time to open them and print them his was empty.

That's all there is to this story. Like my uncle I am guessing you wished there was more.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:35 PM on February 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Sadly.....The memorable single big common regret of the mostly female elderly in nursing homes was wishing they'd had kids

This comment is a lot more credible than Bronnie Ware's list. Ware's list is ironic because all the items signal values about individuality and non-conformity, while simultaneously appealing to the most widely popular notions about what people "should" regret on their death beds. If the list included divisive items like this, too many people would find it off-putting and Ware wouldn't be selling books or making the newspaper.

Ware's list represents a cultural script. She is telling her audience what they want to hear, and, equally likely, people on their death beds are telling her what they are "supposed to" say. Social exchange is mostly a dance; questions and answers are a way for people to bond and feel good about each other, not a 'Spergy logical exchange of information. I don't want to spend my last moments on earth alienating my care-provider with my offensive old person political and religious views. No one gets offended when you tell them that you should have worked less and enjoyed life more. Non-materialists will agree, and, as noted above, even materialists pay lip service to non-materialism.

Now imagine someone saying the opposite: they wish they would've worked more, and spent less time with their family and friends. This seems like a completely common and credible regret to me. Working is the main source of life satisfaction for a lot of people. But few are going to admit this, and die with some sort of creepy Ebenezer Scrooge reputation.

And here's the rub: when researchers ask people about life regrets in a context that isn't as vulnerable to scripting, they actually give answers closer to the Scrooge outlook. The biggest regret is not completing a higher education degree (i.e. not working hard enough on your social status at a critical young age).
posted by dgaicun at 11:40 PM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


This seems like a completely common and credible regret to me. Working is the main source of life satisfaction for a lot of people. But few are going to admit this,

It sort of depends on the nature of the WORK. Sweating blood at a weapons factory so some stockholders' kids can continue to do only the best heroin? Nah. But working on something that matters ... well, that's completely different.
posted by philip-random at 12:46 AM on February 3, 2012


#1 B**ch!

*I'm not bitter
posted by fistynuts at 4:01 AM on February 3, 2012


I'm fairly certain of one thing... on my death-bed I won't be thinking "Gee, I wish I'd spent more time on Metafilter".
posted by philipy at 4:12 AM on February 3, 2012


I'd also be a little surprised that on average, most people were this image-conscious on their death beds. Maybe bitter, maybe angry, maybe sad, maybe regretful, but this egomaniacal? Doesn't that take some serious energy?

I don't think it is quite that. My grandfather is 95+. He has been alone for 6 years, and is getting frail. Medical science kept his heart going in 1981, and again in 1998, and again in 2010, so he is fortunate to still be here, I guess. He still lives alone, but is getting meals on wheels and needs some help.
The last year or two, he has just been out of his element, like a guy who just missed his bus, but not 100% sure it was his bus or another route. He has slowly become quite self centered, which shows up clearly because he was previously the opposite. I suspect that as you draw closer to the end, it isn't high self regard, but the struggle to keep the whole rest of the world in focus/sense that makes it easier just to retreat a bit inward and self reflect.
posted by bystander at 4:57 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bystander's story underlines something very tragic, but very present for the elderly, they are alone. If everyone you looked up to, everyone you hung out with, everyone of your peers were gone and you were left in a confusing world that views you as weak, doddering, frail, old fashioned, slow, asexual, etc., you might tend to get a little insular yourself, no?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:15 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure whether or not I'll be going to regret not being there when my wife died or not when I'm on the verge of death myself.

Other than that, everything that I can imagine regret doing or not doing is pointless regretting anyway at that point, as they won't matter after I die anymore. I'll be dead, gone, no longer able to regret going or not going to Hawai.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:47 AM on February 3, 2012


Other than that, everything that I can imagine regret doing or not doing is pointless regretting anyway at that point, as they won't matter after I die anymore.

Everything is pointless. And the finality of death is what inspires "regrets." I already regret not learning how to skateboard.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:40 AM on February 3, 2012


Everything is pointless.

No it isn't.
posted by philip-random at 10:24 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


when researchers ask people about life regrets in a context that isn't as vulnerable to scripting, they actually give answers closer to the Scrooge outlook.

dgaicun: It sounds like you're referring to particular studies. Could you share them? (I don't mean this in the skeptical sense of "Cite Please." More like: I'd love to read that!)
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:36 AM on February 3, 2012


Everything is pointless

If you're just racing to get the end, it kind of is.
posted by empath at 10:41 AM on February 3, 2012


OK, OK, it's both totally pointless and totally not. I figured that was understood ...
posted by mrgrimm at 10:55 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


It sounds like you're referring to particular studies. Could you share them?

Sure:

"A meta-analysis of 11 regret ranking studies revealed that the top six biggest regrets in life center on (in descending order) education, career, romance, parenting, the self, and leisure ... Indeed, that education appears as the number one regret of Americans is a remarkably consistent finding across these studies (e.g., should have stayed in school, should have studied harder, should have gotten another degree)."


Not working hard enough on education and career are overwhelmingly the main sources of reported regret in life. In other words the truth is the exact opposite of Ware's feel-good list.

(Of course, maybe Australia is much different. But the paper suggests this will be a less common regret in societies with low social mobility, so I doubt it.)
posted by dgaicun at 11:05 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


... but are these meta-regrets from the very end of people's lives (the palliative stage) or just later (middle age - onward). I imagine one's perspective can change quite a bit even between retirement and death bed.
posted by philip-random at 2:50 PM on February 3, 2012


1. I wish I'd switched to Turbotax sooner.
2. I wish I hadn't dyed my hair platinum the day before my passport photo.
3. I wish I'd saved instead of spent.
4. I wish I understood modern dance.
5. I wish people would stop asking me about my bucket list.
posted by thinkpiece at 6:49 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Often when you finally make a change in your life that is true to yourself, the "others" say, "I wondered when you would finally do that!"

The best coming-out story I've ever heard is when an acquaintance of mine finally came out as a lesbian and her friends' reactions were relief because "We didn't know how to tell you!"
posted by Jacqueline at 8:14 PM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Mexican replied only a little while. The American then asked why didn't he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs.

His deathbed regrets:
  1. Little Jaunito's limp since they couldn't afford a doctor for a simple broken leg.
  2. The hole in the boat that he had to borrow money to fix.
  3. The two months he couldn't work because of back problems.
  4. Eduardo's nervous breakdown and return from school because he was working 80 hours a week to support himself and send money back home.
  5. The ten humiliating years of deeply underpaid menial work he had to take when the boat sank.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:06 PM on February 5, 2012


1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.


What if I'm only staying in touch with my friends because that's what others expect of me?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:55 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


From dgaicun's study, the best advice seems totally contrary to Ware's claims about end-of-life regrets:

1. Conform to expectations.
2. Work and study harder.
3. Bottle up your feelings.
4. Don’t stay in touch with old friends, make new ones.
5. Don’t worry so much about happiness.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:17 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


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