What’s Important to You and the Common Regrets of the Dying

During this horrendous time with the drought, fires, loss of lives and loss of animals and insects it seems to be a time where we all have had to consider what’s important to us in our lives.

When you are faced with a ‘watch and act’ alert from the RFS what do/did you take from your home? Who do/did you take with you? What’s important to you and what really matters? It makes us focus on these aspects of life.

Looking at the media coverage over the months since the bushfires in our area and then continuing on with the fires and damage on the South Coast and then in South Australia on Kangaroo Island, I’m sure all of us have all had to think about what actually is essential in our lives.  To me, it seems to be that it is the people in our lives that are important.  There have been many comments that houses can be rebuilt, personal items can be reacquired and the damage done can hopefully be restored.   Losing someone in a fire for whom you care would obviously be devastating and would have a huge impact on your life until it’s ‘your turn’.

What’s Important?

It’s these times in our lives and putting the causes, the reasons and the politics aside, that have made us all contemplate what is vital to us.  Whilst we cannot turn back the clock we can learn from these experiences and perhaps, refocus on what’s important to us and maybe change the way we do things and the way we see things in our local area, our country and the world.

I came across an article which I think is very relevant which was written by an Australian Palliative Care Nurse and Singer, Bronnie Ware.  It was titled ‘The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying’.  The top 5 regrets according to Bronnie Ware were:   


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

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices that they had made, or not made.


2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard

This came from almost every male patient that Bronnie Ware nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke about this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men she nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.  This regret is probably even more poignant now in this day and age given that both parents usually need to work to keep the body and soul of the family together financially.


3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.  

It seems that as you get older you often have the courage and confidence to express your own feelings rather than being influenced by your peer group, friends, social media or what you believe people think of you.


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

Many people did not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let these golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying, especially if they were friends from the ‘good old’ days. 

I know it’s easy to keep in touch with friends on Facebook and Instagram and other social media that there is now available, however is this just voyeurism or is it a true and meaningful relationship?  There is no replacement for physical rather than digital contact.

Of course, we get preoccupied by our own family, children and grandchildren and often don’t have the time for our old school friends or those people who were so important in our formative years.  In most cases, it is not necessary to keep in touch with those people on a daily or weekly basis because a true friend is often someone who you may not have seen for some time however, automatically ‘click’ because of the past foundation and friendship you have developed in those early formative years.  Don’t let that go!

I value true friendship and friends and for the past 25 years have been meeting with a group of eight University friends every year and we spend a weekend together.  Without doing this, those friendships may have diminished.  It’s also a lot of fun which is something we need more than ever and more of as we get older especially in light of the serious challenges we, our country and the world faces!


5. I wish that I had let myself be happier

Bronnie Ware found that this is a surprisingly common regret. Many people did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stuck in their old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. The fear of change had them pretending to others, and to themselves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

So the main purpose of this article is for you to ponder what’s important to you and what would your regrets be in life if you were given that diagnosis that only allowed you, a short time to live!

It’s a sobering thought and in our busy lives where we are working, keeping everybody happy, looking after our family, doing our domestic chores, putting food on the table, looking after our animals, we often just lurch from crises to crises without stopping to deeply consider what is it all about.

Lawyer’s Regret

One regret that was not referred to by Bronnie Ware was the ‘Lawyer’s regret’ of their clients not having a Will and properly planning for their incapacity, that often comes quickly and without warning, with old age and us living longer.  

Whilst a large number of people believe they don’t necessarily need a Will, Power of Attorney and Enduring Guardian, having that documentation in place will make the lives of those who are caring for you much easier. Trust me, they will appreciate you for it if they have to pick up the pieces after you have lost capacity and when you have departed this earth.

So as you are reading this then, please give some thought to the chaos and anxiety that may be left to others, if you do not have a properly prepared and thought out Will, Power of Attorney and Enduring Guardianship sorted.  Please consider what would be your greatest regret or what have you done or could do now to ensure that you don’t have the lawyers regret!

At Paton Hooke Lawyers and Conveyancers, we can help you by eliminating the ‘Lawyer’s regret’.  We can assist you and your family to ensure that your departure from this earth, which is inevitable, is legally as pain free as possible. It is not that complicated believe me, because we know what we are doing and have done it all before. Every seemingly difficult situation has a solution.  It may be that you just need down to earth and practical legal advice from us now to make it happen, then we can all get some sleep!

James Paton 

Lawyer, Conveyancer and Notary Public.

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