When Bronnie was caring for cheerful Pearl, a 60 plus widow with a terminal illness, she learned of Pearl’s positive approach to life. Pearl had lost her husband through a workplace incident and her only child to leukemia at 8 years of age. Now, she was accepting of her life ending soon. Pearl, who had experienced enough tragedy, was never a victim. This short piece relates to regret number 2; “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
Many people facing end of life can experience initial denial before processing a range of emotions leading to eventual acceptance of the inevitable. For Pearl her acceptance was grounded in her belief that she would be reunited with her family.
For Bronnie, Pearl’s wisdom lay in her refusal to entertain victimhood. Pearl’s perspective on making the most of the gift of life helped Bronnie see how, at times, she herself would be caught up in her sense of being wounded by others, how hard her own life had been.
Noting the fine line between compassion and victimhood. Entertaining feeling the victim is toxic and repugnant to any experience of happiness. Compassion calls for gentleness with self and is a healing experience without indulgence in the pain of a victim. Many people lean into sometimes harsh challenges to find happiness while others persist in complaining without awareness of the many blessings in their life.
Pearl devoted her life to community work after realizing her one of her life purposes lay there. Her position around money was clear. She regarded money as curiously misunderstood by most people. It can hold people in unfulfilling jobs when they could be doing what they truly love. For Pearl, acting on life purpose affords opening to the flow of money as well as experiencing more true happiness.
Her regrets, which she shared with Bronnie near her last days were that she spent so many years in an ‘average’ less fulfilling job before taking up her life purposes in Community work helping others.
Complexity and simplicity
There can be considerable complexity around a person’s passing. Loving families of the dying experience differing emotions and feelings. Fear, born of an unpreparedness to face the fact of death, in Bronnie’s experience, has severely affected some relatives of the dying. The dying frequently make peace with the inevitable.
Families can express certain challenging behaviors as confusion around next steps surfaces. One taking control of everything, another feeling excluded, one resenting equal shares of an estate irrespective of the help afforded to the dying parent. Siblings squabbling over shares at the bedside of a dying parent. For Bronnie, it was hard work at times but her priority was her patient.
The carer’s perception proved cathartic in several instances. Questioning a dying father as to whether he had ever declared his love for his son ( as distinct from gratitude for jobs done around the place), Bronnie encouraged particular insight.
Deciding to lead a life of greater simplicity meant practicing meditation, decluttering, recycling, and downsizing. Simplicity, for Bronnie Ware, included separating out a person from their un-resourceful, even toxic, behaviours. Leading wisely and with compassion promoted clearer perspectives on strained relationships within her own circle of relationships.
Messages for us all abound in her book; ‘The top 5 regrets of the dying’. Stop by again for more posts informed by her contribution.