What are the regrets of dying

These are five things that the dying regrets most often. So the living should take it to heart.

Perhaps New Year's resolutions would be more effective if one listened to the dying who confess what they regret. What would they do differently if they had another chance?

Again, one has not changed jobs, hardly ever gone on vacation, and the word "hedonism" only echoes a distant, wistful memory. Too seldom have you told the person with whom you share table and bed how much you love them, but on the other hand you have not left the relationship that is choking your breath. You remained a slave to the smartphone and again didn't read more than a single book. Instead of going to bed an hour earlier, you go an hour later. Instead of shedding three pounds, you gained two.

Resolutions are useless. They just show you the force of gravity that you are exposed to every day. But instead of despairing at the end of the year, one can, for example, listen to the dying. What you cannot do on your own, may be possible thanks to the confessions of repentance of those who have no time left. Because to hear what others say they have missed at the end of their lives offers a mirror: What would I say if I were you? It can become a memento mori.

One can understand what the patient said as a warning to improve one's life, to be "more true to oneself". But resolution is also a burden.

For this reason, the Australian nurse Bronnie Ware, who has worked in palliative care for a long time, has collected testimony from the dying. She wrote a book about it called "The Top Five Regrets of the Dying".

The most common repentance of the dying was regret that they had not lived the life they had dreamed of; that instead of pursuing their own goals, they too often met the expectations of others. The second most popular was: "I wish I hadn't worked so much." Third, the terminally ill wished they had allowed and communicated feelings more strongly. Fourth, they would have kept in touch with their friends. They missed them in the last months of their lives. And the fifth was repentance of the realization that one could have been happier if one had only wanted to.

Really?

The last point makes the offer to take an example from those who live with heightened consciousness in the face of death ambiguous. It will certainly not be the doctorate or the promotion that you will remember at the end - but people. But when Mrs. Ware, the dying companion, writes that many people have not realized that “being happy is a choice”, you have to contradict her. A will to be happy is not enough to be happy. That is not only in our hands, even if today we pretend that everyone is responsible for their happiness, as if the right attitude is simply missing if it does not happen.

Whatever happens, it's right, as wrong as it sometimes feels.

One can understand what the patient said as a reminder to improve one's life, to be "more true to oneself". But resolution is also a burden. In addition, the repentant sound so unreconciled and, in retrospect, a bit self-centered.

That is why I find the words more comforting that the Austrian writer Marlen Haushofer wrote down shortly before her death. “Don't worry,” begins the letter to himself: “You have seen too much and too little, like all the people before you. You cried too much, maybe too little, like all the people before you. Maybe you have loved or hated too much. . . " She concludes: "Everything will have been in vain."

After all, this insight can lead to taking things more calmly and dealing more graciously with one's own failures. Whatever happens, it's right, as wrong as it sometimes feels.

Incidentally, I also find the second regret of the dying somewhat generalized. In this sense: to a new one.

NZZ editor Birgit Schmid writes weekly about interpersonal relationships in her column “In every relationship”.