Bonnie Ware, a hospice  nurse in Australia, spent several years working in palliative care, counseling the dying and caring for patients in the last weeks of their lives. Her experience revealed the most common regrets people have at the end of their lives.

The top 5 regrets expressed by the dying are by no means surprising. But they afford us the clarity of vision and the wisdom that people often gain at the end of their lives. These are the regrets:

  1. I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had made more friends and stayed in touch with them.
  5. I wish I had let myself be happier.

What are the underlying values related to these regrets, and how might we recommit to ourselves.

  1. By living with the courage to be true to ourselves and not compromising simply to please others.
  2. By spending our time according to what is of greatest importance to us and allocating our time in line with our values and priorities.
  3. By living with an awareness of our feelings and honoring those emotions by expressing them honestly from the heart.
  1. By living a life that embraces friendships so that we will always remember that we are part of something much larger than ourselves.
  2. By choosing a life that is fulfilling and brings meaning and a deep sense of happiness to us.

May the regret within us be transformed into lessons that blossom in unexpected ways, bringing us to see those blemishes as portals to our own growth.

May we find within ourselves the strength we surely possess.


Rabbi Hirshel Jaffe, a cancer survivor, is a motivational/inspirational speaker on the theme NEVER GIVE UP! He authored “Why Me? Why Anyone?” which chronicles his rescue from leukemia and his spiritual triumph over despair. Known as “The Running Rabbi” for competing in the NY Marathon, he received the “Award of Courage” from President Ronald Reagan in a White House ceremony. Rabbi Jaffe was one of the clergy who visited the American hostages in Iran to offer them comfort and hope and was asked by the President to greet them at the White House upon their return. He received an honorary Doctorate from his seminary for “his work with the sick, and his noble influence upon all people. You can find more information on his website.

Image courtesy of Flora Westbook.