old people couple together connected webWhen faced with the nearing inevitability of shuffling off this mortal coil, our thoughts pace back-and-forth between the past and the future, often pausing in the present for a reality check. We wonder if we did all the things we “shoulda woulda coulda.” Will we empty our bucket list before we kick the bucket? Is it time to stop nursing grudges and let them die? How will I manage the pain I feel or get around the house or hospital room? What, if anything, lies beyond in the Great Beyond, and am I prepared? Why aren’t hearses equipped to pull U-Hauls?

In our Legacy series, we will examine some areas to consider as we approach our final days on Earth. This is not meant to be a morbid look at an unpleasant subject but a helpful guide to help you settle things while you have time. We will talk about what we leave behind (regrets), where we are now (goals and wishes), and where we are headed (eternity).

There is much discussion about the quality of life but the quality of death is almost a taboo subject. One of the follies of the young is that they think they will live forever, or at least have “plenty of time.” Paradoxically, more and more young people are not wishing to live forever but are instead choosing self-destructive behavior and devaluing human life. In any case, no one has access to the Divine Day Planner and the date and means of departure. The lesson is: Prepare now to leave behind a legacy and take with you what truly matters.

Until such time as somebody builds a time machine, there is no way to go back and do what was not done or undo what was done; therefore, we live with regrets.

Regrets often come from never getting around to doing the things we should or fixing what is broken. Regrets can be minor, such as not buying enough dessert on a shopping trip, or choosing hash browns instead of breakfast potatoes at the diner. They can also be major, such as making that big-ticket purchase despite the poor ratings or not buying that Google stock years ago. Areas of regret differ for each person, but many can be avoided with good advice and wisdom.

The Bible tells us not to worry about tomorrow — plan, but don’t worry. Regret is a way of worrying about yesterday, an equally pointless task.

One of the most common areas of regret is not making things right in broken relationships. Time spent harboring bad feelings can be more satisfactorily spent in healthy, peaceful relationships. Too many people fuss and fume and feud over slights that can easily be forgiven and buried, instead of being buried with the parties involved.

Acknowledging regrets is the first step to healing. When we accept that we cannot change the past, we can let go of it and go to work on repairing the damage before it’s too late.

One of my biggest regrets is not finishing college. I dropped out after my freshman year, then bounced around a couple other schools, thinking I would get a head start on my life in contrast to my friends who were “wasting” their time studying. I can’t count the number of jobs I was otherwise qualified for that I could not get because I don’t have a college degree. I did complete an MDiv seminary program as a special student, but could not receive the actual degree. That has hamstrung my dreams to be a seminary professor. I tried to make it “right” by taking night classes but realized I would be getting my degree and applying for Social Security at the same time; too late.

I also regret not taking music lessons. I was not allowed when I was young, but had plenty of opportunity when I was on my own. So, I could blame my parents, but not entirely. Placing blame doesn’t really help, anyway. Had I been more responsible, I would be known today as The Singing Seminary Professor!

We can try to avoid regrets through careful planning, determined action, wise counsel, and realistic expectations. We cannot wish for the past, but we can work on our goals and wishes for today, which will be the subject of our next installment.

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