Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Regrets of the Dying and What We Can Learn from People With Disabilities

At the end of our lives, we will all look back and evaluate our lives, what will we regret?  I recently read an on-line article titled “Top5 regrets of the dying.”
Australian nurse, Bronnie Ware, spent several years caring for patients on their last 12 weeks of life. During those last days, patients shared with her the regrets they had. Bronnie began to document her patients epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai. Her blog quickly became popular leading to her book titled “Top 5 Regrets of theDying.”
Here are Ware’s findings:
  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 find it interesting that we do not see, “I wish I would have made more money,” “I wish I would have been smarter,” “I wish I would have had a better job,” “I wish I would have lived alone and independently most of my life.”
The truth is, that when we look at individuals with special needs we assume they have less to contribute to society, or that the quality of their life is inferior if their IQ is lower and they work bagging groceries at a store.  However, it appears that at the end of life, those things really do not matter. If we look at every regret, we can see how we could learn to live, and to live fully, from watching people with disabilities do life.
  1. People with disabilities live life to their true self. Have you ever been around people with Down syndrome? Did you feel a tangible type of joy?  Did you recognize that they are true to themselves and their hearts have room to accept all people?
  2. Have you seen the man with an intellectual disability working at the local grocery store? Yes, he works hard, but do you notice the smile he offers as he places your bags back in the grocery cart? He does not live life for work, but rather works for the enjoyment of doing something for someone else and to make a little bit of money so he can pay his bills. Because he knows that life is about more than work.
  3. Have you seen the adult daughter who gently places her head on her dad’s shoulder and whispers, “I live you dad.” And the love you see makes you wish you could have what they have?
  4. Have you walked into a group home for adults with disabilities and marveled at the fun and the close friendships that they share? Did you wish you could participate in their spontaneous dance parties, or playing UNO, or seeing them share the frustrations of their own disabilities while their friends embrace them and offer unconditional love?
  5. You won’t see only happiness when you are surrounded by people with disabilities, often times, you will see joy.
I have teachers in my own home, 2 little girls who teach me and show me what life is all about. Every day, every single day I see my daughter with Down syndrome enjoy life to the fullest, or my daughter with Cerebral Palsy who continues to improve her steps and announces she is going to practice and some day, she will be able to jump.
The joys and the fullness of life we live with thanks to them is a gift. People talk about children like my own as if they were a burden, but what burden is there when they show us what life is  really all about? When we can learn about love, joy, peace and kindness from them.
People with intellectual disabilities have much to offer to society. I am convinced that if we all looked at them as human beings, as contributing members of society, if we took to heart the way they show us to live, the regrets on our last days would be vastly different.

Photo Credit

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  1. Ellen,

    This is such a wonderful post. Life really is what you make of it.

    1. Thanks Steph, as soon as I read the findings from Bronnie I knew right away people could learn so much from those with disabilities.

  2. We're prideful when we don't realize that we need people with disabilities as much as they may need us. They bring out our better qualities when we let them. You've been on my mind in the last few days and I've been praying that God equips you with strength and joy as you serve your sweet family!

    1. Yes, and ignorant, very ignorant (at least I will be the first to raise my hand and admit that was me before Nichole). Thanks for the prayers, they were needed this week actually, so thank you for hearing I needed them :)


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