When are You Going to Start Living?

This morning, I came across a post written by Bronnie Ware who worked in palliative care for many years.  It is a post that I think everyone should read:

Top Five Regrets of the Dying

To sum it up, the top five regrets are:

  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
  • I wish I didn’t work so hard
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
  • I wish that I had let myself be happier

In the last weeks before my dad passed away, we reflected back a bit on his life.  One of the big highlights was a trip we took to Hawaii.  That trip was a result of a casual conversation in the spring of 2008.  “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?” I asked him.  He had always wanted to visit Pearl Harbor.

“So what’s stopping you?” I asked.

Oh, someday I’ll go, he said.  Dad served two years in World War II and he wanted to see the place that altered the course of his life as a teen.  We continued to talk about our “someday” dreams.  Then I stopped and looked at him.  “This ‘someday’ you’re talking about,  really, what’s stopping you?” I wanted to know.  “Why don’t you plan a trip? You’re not getting any younger and someday you might not be able to move around,” I joked.

And then I got serious. “And this ‘someday’ might not happen if you wait around for it too long.”

“Ok, fine, you plan it, then!” he smiled.  The next thing he knew, I booked airline tickets to Hawaii and my sister arranged for a hotel.  A few weeks later, we were on a plane to Hawaii. We spent the first two days at Pearl Harbor.  Dad was filled with war stories and he really opened up.  My mom, my sister and I– we soaked it all in.  We knew how important this trip was to him. We went to the Dole Plantation where we feasted on pineapple ice cream, rode the train and walked in a glorious garden with amazing flowers.  We took a boat ride on the other side of Oahu, where we saw a whale.  We took a sunset cruise on a cloudy night, but for a few glorious moments, the clouds parted and we captured the most amazing sunset.

And days before he fell into a coma from the cancer, we talked about that trip to Hawaii.  The memories were sweet ones. “Thank God we did that trip,” I said. “I’m glad we didn’t put it off for ‘someday.'”


There’s a little ditty that I came across awhile back and the author is unknown.  The words are profound:

First, I was dying to finish my high school and start college.
And then I was dying to finish college and start working.

Then I was dying to marry and have children.
And then I was dying for my children to grow old enough so I could go back to work.

But then I was dying to retire.
And now I am dying…

And suddenly I realized…
I forgot to live.

So let me ask you, what are you putting off for “someday?”  When are you going to start living?






4 replies
  1. Kim Romaner
    Kim Romaner says:

    Ooooof! Right in the solar plexus, Karen! Excellent, excellent post. Will share. Sometimes we need to re-evaluate our definition of success, don’t we? Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Ann Lovell
    Ann Lovell says:

    I love this column! Your comment, “What is stopping you?” is something that I need to tell myself. I’ve been guilty of dreaming and not acting. Your column is inspiring me to move forward in my dreams! Thanks for always being such an inspiration to me in so many ways! 🙂

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