In my forthcoming book, I dedicate a chapter to the subject of regrets, which is based on the wisdom shared by my palliative patients, back in the days when I was a chemotherapy nurse. My book is formatted in bite-size chapters so that you can read something in the briefest of moments, such as waiting for your bus to arrive, or dithering until your morning toast pops up. However, the subject of regrets is so vast and emotive, especially as many of the words come from those who are no longer on this earthly plane, I broke the bite-size rules and went on for a few pages, even making myself cry in the process.

Obviously, my tears were not because I exceeded my ideal word count, but the poignancy that we often come to realise what is important in life, at the end of our life, when it is too late to rectify. It is easy to fling around the expression “never regret anything in life” but fact of the matter is, that we inevitably will regret some aspect of our life, or will live without the knowledge of how exactly we can live a life without regrets. I am not talking of the little, irrelevant regrets that will litter your life, such as eating too much food, not buying that bargain item when you saw it in the sale, or that one night stand with thingamajig when your heart belongs to another. The regrets I refer to are the ones that spanned the majority of one’s earthly existence; their way of every day life.

My life is blessed in many ways, but the one way for which I will always be grateful for, was my privileged role of working with palliative patients. These beautiful souls, who shared their wisdom of the key to leading a happier life, before they departed from their own unhappy life. You may have jobs that pay you a pretty penny, but palliative nursing was by far my richest role. Most of the advice was the patient telling me what not to do, so to ensure I did not make the same mistakes they had, so I heed their words and share some of them with you now, so you too can consider adopting their wisdom into your own life choices.

  1. Have the courage and strength to live a life that is true to you, not live a lie or a life dictated to you by others.
  2. Do not dedicate too much of your life to work.
  3. Take time to talk to people in your life, and reveal your true feelings when you speak.
  4. If a relationship matters to you; work for it.
  5. Allow yourself to be a happier and positive person.

It seemed that many patients had suppressed their personal thoughts and opinions out of loyalty to others feelings, predominantly their parents or partners. Men especially, would always say how they wish they had been more honest about their feelings, from telling someone they loved them, dropping their barriers to say they were hurting too, or admitting they were wrong in a situation. We should try to live a truthful life from this day forward, and if that means learning from the words of the dying, so be it. Let us honour their wisdom and do them some justice as we start living our second chance of true happiness.

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