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New Years Resolutions

Rabbi Levi Cunin shares inspiration from the work of Bronnie Ware, who captured the top five regrets of the dying.

As a hospice nurse, Bronnie Ware cared for terminal patients during their final months. She recorded their dying insights in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which attracted so much attention that she wrote a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

Ware wrote of the clarity of vision that people seem to have at the end. "When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently," she wrote, "common themes surfaced again and again."

As the year 2012 comes to a close I wanted to share some of her words of wisdom that may guide us as we set our sights to realize our dreams, otherwise known as, “New Year’s resolutions,” in the coming year of 2013.

Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as recorded by Ware:

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 realize 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 honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it."

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

"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."

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."

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

"Often they would not truly realize 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 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."

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

As a student of Chassidism, I see here the unfulfilled desire to be attached to the soul and spirit of life. The new year is a time to consider new possibilities.

When we integrate the soul with our everyday living, we assure for ourselves and those around us more fulfillment and joy. Each act of goodness and kindness to others is another step in the path toward a better life not just for those who are touched by your kindness, but for you.

May 2013 bring you and yours light, joy and blessings. May G-d bless you with a happy, sweet, and prosperous New Year.  

Shabbat Shalom!

J. Flo December 28, 2012 at 04:11 PM
So important! Words of such deep meaning and such a timely reminder are a keeper - thank you Rabbi Levi! Happy New Year to you and your beautiful family!
Rabbi Levi Cunin December 28, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Thank you J, for your kind words and wishes! Happy New Year to you and the family!
R J January 04, 2013 at 08:51 PM
I have a New Year wish. I wish everyone all the love, peace, and happiness life has to offer-for an eternity longer than a lifetime. Just release your peace, cuz peace is not meant to be restrained, it is meant to be "pout out there", live your love, and like peace, love is meant to be shared, and when you can do both of these things, simply enjoy the ride. Shanti.

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