If I ever lost my phone, I wouldn’t know what to do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who is glued to the glowing screen, constantly texting or hanging out on social media, unable to be still with my thoughts for a few moments. I quite literally would not know what to do. I enter my appointments, to-dos and tasks in my phone’s apps. I even have a category for “dates to remember.”
It’s not just birthdays and anniversaries, but other dates that matter. For example, October 17, 1994 was the first time my (not yet) wife said she loved me. Every year, it shows up on my calendar as a reminder of what’s important to me. Oct. 25, 2011 was the date I was almost killed in a car versus bike accident. I remind myself of that every 365 days to remind myself to be thankful. My youngest son moved to Portland Oct. 8, 2009. I don’t know why I keep track of that, but it seems like an important date.
Not everything is in October. For example, May 6, 1984 is when my grandmother, Zlote Zelby, passed on, approximately three months after my oldest son was born. She always wanted to be a great-grandmother and for those 117 final days in her life, she was. He being the only great-grandchild she ever met.
Zlote spent most of that time in the hospital, suffering from congestive heart failure, which eventually claimed her. I have one photograph of her in the hospital sitting in a wheelchair with an oxygen tube connected to her nose. Surrounding her stood my mother and my aunt, with me sitting next to her, holding my son on my lap. Four generations together for one brief moment, captured on film. Only my son and I are still around.
My grandmother was an incredibly strong woman. As a Russian immigrant, non-English speaking, widowed mother of three in the 1930s, she ran her own business. Yet as age took its toll, her later years were filled with regrets. The anniversary of her passing — as well as my own thoughts about aging — caused me to look at my own life, “Do I have any regrets?”
Sure, we all have some. But, at least for me, I’m fortunate; they are few. God willing, I’ve still got time to deal with them.
On the website, “Collective Evolution,” I found an article, compiled by a palliative nurse who listed the Top Five Regrets at the end of life. Consider it a cautionary tale.
The list follows, each starting with “I wish…”
1. I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I had let myself be happier.
As the site points out, “The process of regret is one that provides nothing but suffering for ourselves as we begin to allow the past to dictate how we should feel now. Instead, we can use the past as a reference point to understand what adjustments we would like to make moving forward.”
To that end, I have compiled a simple method to avoid the Tragic Five.
1. Be true to yourself
2. Work less.
3. Speak your truth.
4. Value your relationships.
5. Find reasons to be happy.
We all know where we’re going; we just don’t know how or when. But we better not wait until we are dates to remember in our children’s calendars.
Scott “Q” Marcus is a speaker and author. Since losing 70 pounds 23 years ago, he conducts speeches, workshops, and presentation. He also coaches individuals and consults with companies on how to implement and handle change. He can be reached at www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com.