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A Day in the Life

11 September 2020

In this week’s assembly I spoke to the boys about a book written by Australian palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, 'The Top Five Regrets of the Dying'.

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying draws on the experiences of a career spent alongside the terminally ill to identify the most frequent regrets of those waiting to die.  According to Ware they are:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me - When people realise that their life is nearly over and look back on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard - Not a regret that some of the boys are in any immediate danger of feeling! However, many patients nursed by Ware expressed this regret.  They had missed their children’s youth and their partners company as a result of working too hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings - Many people supress their feelings in order to keep peace with others.  Too late they realise that speaking honestly raises a relationship to a healthier level or releases you from it.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends - It is common for anyone with a busy life to let friendships slip but when people are faced with their approaching death the material aspects of life become less important.
  5. I wish I’d let myself be happier - Apparently a surprisingly common regret.  Many people do not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They stay stuck in old patterns and habits.  The so-called comfort of familiarity.  Fear of change makes people pretend to others and themselves, that they are content.

This isn’t the first time that we have been urged by the dying to seize the day.  Why then do so many people continue to die so full of regret? 

Because, as John Lennon famously said, ‘Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.’ Humans often don’t realise their own mortality until it is too late, we believe that there is always more time to achieve our dreams, we get caught up in our day to day lives and put off what is truly important for another day, that never quite comes.

One thing 2020 has taught us is that you never know when circumstances will change, and it is vital that you do not put off until tomorrow what should and can be done today.  I urged your sons to embody the Warwick School value of courage by living a life true to themselves and casting off the shackles of peer pressure, by saying yes to interesting opportunities even when they may not be popular and by being prepared to work hard to achieve their goals, even if they think others aren’t trying and it is ‘cooler’ not to be seen to care.  I also asked them to have the courage to break bad habits and patterns of behaviour, to not fear change and prefer familiarity for familiarities sake.  If something isn’t working for them they must not be afraid to change it.

The next school year will fly by and at the end of it I hope the boys can all look at themselves in the mirror and honestly say that they have no regrets and that if they could live the next twelve months over again there is nothing they would do differently because they have had the courage to be true to themselves.