As we approach the end of 2020, there are many articles, blogs and advertisements that encourage us to think of our New Year’s Resolutions. According to an article on Forbes.com from 12/31/18, less than 25% of people who make resolutions stay committed after 1 month and only 8% accomplish them. The article recommends having specific attainable goals instead, ones that have actionable steps that you can track each day/week.
As you think about goals that you would like to work on in the new year, I would like to suggest that you do some thinking about areas of your life in which you want to make different choices.
In college, I had a class assignment to write my own eulogy. We were asked to think what we wanted to be remember for at the end of our lives. I have forgotten what I wrote but looking at my life now, I want to be remembered as someone who was a good friend, who knew how to listen, who was authentic and enjoyed life immensely.
In her book, “Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing,” Bronnie Ware shares about the wisdom she learned from her patients while working in palliative care. bronnieware.com/blog/regrets-of-the-dying/#
Here is what she discovered:
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
"This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it."
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
"Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."
After reading this, I want to make different choices about my relationships in the new year. Here are several of my goals:
What are some choices/goals that you want to make in 2020?
I am sharing a blog that I wrote last Christmas because I think it is important to remember that the memories we are creating will last much longer than the presents we give.
This year as I unpacked ornaments and decorations, I was flooded with many memories of Christmases past. The ones that stand out the most are not the presents I received but the experiences that we had together as a family.
As a child, I remember the annual outing to get a live tree from a family friend in Oregon. He planted and sold trees on his land and he generously offered our family the opportunity to cut our own tree for free from one of the second-growths that sprouted up from the stump.
One year, my three siblings and I accompanied my dad on a damp Saturday morning. As my dad tells the story, finding a suitable tree and sawing it down was not the biggest challenge. As we made our way back to the car along the muddy path, my brother Eric who was three, was having a difficult time keeping up. My dad, pulling the tree with one hand, grabbed my brother around the middle and lifted him up. Unfortunately, his boots remained stuck in the mud. For me, the highlight of the adventure was the retelling of the story to my mother back at home—how my dad had gotten all of us, the tree and even the boots safely back to the car.
Although we lived across the country from both sets of grandparents, we were able to spend some Christmases together with them. I remember the opportunities to spend time talking with them, the annual jigsaw puzzles, getting reacquainted with cousins, and eating the cookies and special Christmas treats.
One Christmas, we were in Plevna, Indiana with my paternal grandfather. My grandmother had been gone for several years and I am sure that it was a source of great happiness to have several of his children and their families spend the holidays together. On Christmas Eve, all of us cousins decided to bundle up and go caroling in the small town. I remember having a feeling of joy sharing carols with my grandfather’s neighbors who we had never met before. My dad reminded me that this was special because it was the last Christmas that my grandfather alive. I am glad that I helped to make it memorable.
The Christmas with my own children that stands out is the one we spent in Puerto Rico. The trip was to celebrate my parents’ sixty wedding anniversary which was in June. But December was when everyone was available. Renting a small villa with separate rooms for each family, we cooked meals in the outdoor kitchen and enjoyed the sounds of the tree frogs and tropical birds. We had our Christmas meal on a rooftop patio enjoying an incredible sunset. My Christmas wish that year was fulfilled as my children had the opportunity to spend time with and reconnect to their grandparents as young adults.
What memories will you be creating this holiday season?
For some more holiday ideas, go to these past posts:
When he was 40, the renown Bohemian novelist and short story writer FRANZ KAFKA (1883–1924), who never married and had no children, was strolling through Steglitz Park in Berlin. He chanced upon a young girl crying her eyes out because she had lost her favorite doll. She and Kafka looked for the doll without success. Kafka told her to meet him there the next day and they would look again.
The next day, when they still had not found the doll, Kafka gave the girl a letter "written" by the doll that said, “Please do not cry. I have gone on a trip to see the world. I'm going to write to you about my adventures."
Thus began a story that continued to the end of Kafka’s life.
When they would meet, Kafka read aloud his carefully composed letters of adventures and conversations about the beloved doll, which the girl found enchanting. Finally, Kafka read her a letter of the story that brought the doll back to Berlin, and he then gave her a doll he had purchased. "This does not look at all my doll," she said. Kafka handed her another letter that explained, "My trips, they have changed me." The girl hugged the new doll and took it home with her. A year later, Kafka died.
Many years later, the now grown-up girl found a letter tucked into an unnoticed crevice in the doll. The tiny letter, signed by Kafka, said, “Everything you love is very likely to be lost, but in the end, love will return in a different way."
We all have opportunities in life where we have the choice to make a difference by our words and actions. Especially during this holiday season, may we all choose to be loving and kind.
This story is credited to Marina Veronica and Jim Fagiolo. Marlene López is the artist of the watercolor drawing.
This blog is from a Facebook post that I saw thanks to my sister Joanna Osborne Masingila. I love what it says about what is truly important in life—memories, unconditional love and passing both on to our families and others.
“Calvin? Calvin, sweetheart?”
In the darkness Calvin heard the sound of Susie, his wife of fifty-three years. Calvin struggled to open his eyes. God, he was so tired, and it took so much strength. Slowly, light replaced the darkness, and soon vision followed. At the foot of his bed stood his wife. Calvin wet his dry lips and spoke hoarsely, “Did… did you…. find him?”
“Yes dear,” Susie said smiling sadly, “He was in the attic. “
Susie reached into her big purse and brought out a soft, old, orange tiger doll. Calvin could not help but laugh. It had been so long. Too long.
“l washed him for you,” Susie said, her voice cracking a little as she laid the stuffed tiger next to her husband.
“Thank you, Susie.” Calvin said. A few moments passed as Calvin just laid on his hospital bed, his head turned to the side, staring at the old toy with nostalgia.
“Dear,” Calvin said finally. “Would you mind leaving me alone with Hobbes for a while? I would like to catch up with him.”
“All right,” Susie said. “I’ll get something to eat in the cafeteria. I’ll be back soon.” Susie kissed her husband on the forehead and turned to leave. With sudden but gentle strength Calvin stopped her. Lovingly he pulled his wife in and gave her a passionate kiss on the lips. “l love you,” he said.
“And I love you,” said Susie. Susie turned and left. Calvin saw tears streaming from her face as she went out the door.
Calvin then turned to face his oldest and dearest friend. “Hello Hobbes. It’s been a long time hasn't it old pal?”
Hobbes was no longer a stuffed doll but the big furry old tiger Calvin had always remembered. “It sure has, Calvin.” said Hobbes. “You… haven’t changed a bit.” Calvin smiled.
“You've changed a lot.” Hobbes said sadly.
Calvin laughed, “Really? I haven’t noticed at all.” There was a long pause. The sound of a clock ticking away the seconds rang throughout the sterile hospital room.
“So… you married Susie Derkins.” Hobbes said, finally smiling. “l knew you always liked her.”
“Shut up!” Calvin said, his smile bigger than ever.
“Tell me everything I missed. I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to!” Hobbes said, excited.
And so Calvin told him everything. He told him about how he and Susie fell in love in high school and had married after graduating from college, about his three kids and four grand-kids, how he turned Spaceman Spiff into one of the most popular sci-fi novels of the decade, and so on. After he told Hobbes all this there was another pregnant pause. “You know… I visited you in the attic a bunch of times.” Calvin said.
“But I couldn’t see you. All I saw was a stuffed animal.” Calvin’s voice was breaking and tears of regret started welling up in his eyes.
“You grew up old buddy.” said Hobbes.
“I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry I broke my promise! I promised I wouldn’t grow up and that we’d be together forever!!” Calvin broke down and sobbed, hugging his best friend.
Hobbes stroked Calvin’s hair, or what little was left of it. “But you didn’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“We were always together…. In our dreams.”
“Yeah, old buddy?”
“I’m so glad I got to see you like this… one last time…”
“Me too, Calvin. Me too.”
“Sweetheart?” Susie voice came from outside the door.
“Yes dear?” Calvin replied.
“Can I come in?” Susie asked.
“Just a minute.” Calvin turned to face Hobbes one last time.
“Goodbye Hobbes. Thanks… for everything…”
‘No, thank you Calvin.” Hobbes said.
Calvin turned back to the door and said, “You can come in now.”
Susie came in and said, “Look who’s come to visit you.”
Calvin’s children and grandchildren followed Susie into the room. The youngest grandchild ran past the rest of them and hugged Calvin in a hard, excited hug. “Grandpa!!” screamed the child in delight.
“Francis!” cried Calvin’s daughter, “Be gentle with your grandfather.”
Calvin’s daughter turned to her dad. “I’m sorry, Daddy. Francis never seems to behave these days. He just runs around making a mess and coming up with strange stories.”
Calvin laughed and said, “Well now! That sound just like me when I was his age.”
Calvin and his family chatted some more until a nurse said, “Sorry, but visiting hours are almost up.”
Calvin’s beloved family said goodbye and promised to visit tomorrow. As they turned to leave Calvin said, “Francis. Come here for a second.”
Francis came over to his grandfather’s side, “What is it, Gramps?”
Calvin reached over to the stuffed tiger on his bedside and held him out shakily to his grandson, who looked exactly as he did so many years ago.
“This is Hobbes. He was my best friend when I was your age. I want you to have him.”
‘He’s just a stuffed tiger.” Francis said, eyebrows raised.
Calvin laughed, “Well, let me tell you a secret.”
Francis leaned closer to Calvin. Calvin whispered, “If you catch him in a tiger trap using a tuna sandwich as bait, he will turn into a real tiger.”
Francis gasped in delighted awe. Calvin continued, “Not only that he will be your best friend forever.”
“Wow! Thanks grandpa!” Francis said, hugging his grandpa tightly again.
“Francis! We need to go now!” Calvin’s daughter called.
“Okay!” Francis shouted back.
“Take good care of him.” Calvin said.
“l will.” Francis said before running off after the rest of the family.
Calvin laid on his back and stared at the ceiling. The time to go was close. He could feel it in his soul. Calvin tried to remember a quote he read in a book once. It said something about death being the next great adventure or something like that. His eyelids grew heavy and his breathing slowed. As he went deeper into his final sleep, he heard Hobbes, as if he was right next to him at his bedside. “I’ll take care of him, Calvin…”
Calvin took his first step toward one more adventure and breathed his last with a grin on his face.