“We are born to love, we live to love, and we will die to love still more.”
— St. Joseph Cafasso
Some time ago, I read an article in which a hospice nurse shared five regrets patients voice most frequently in their last days. Now, while there is an element of grief present in these reflections, I hope that the wisdom they contain can nudge all of us to live life more fully – and lovingly – all the days of our lives. Here, then are what I would offer as five invitations:
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. Underneath it sits this truth: One way we love the God who formed and wonderfully made us is by coming home to ourselves and our unique giftedness and living our own lives fully. Is this not an essential part of what Jesus teaches when he says: “love your neighbor as yourself?”
I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. Every male patient of this nurse expressed this, and many women, too, revealing a God-given longing for balance: work and play . . . people and projects . . . motion and stillness . . . action and rest. In this Jesus leads us; he who “would withdraw to deserted places and pray,” and was so often found at table that some alleged he was too fond of food and wine! We do well to remember that Sabbath is a gift of love – for God, neighbor, and self.
I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. And with this comes the corollary: the courage to welcome others to do the same. The invitation here is to embrace the loving, challenging, and ongoing work of engaging in honest and healthy relationships. Such open and reciprocal communication is one of the ways we live into the biblical instruction to, “speak the truth in love.”
I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends. Underneath and behind this desire is this essential truth: We are created for loving relationship, and life together matters. So it is that we are created in the image and likeness of God, who exists in triune community. And so it is that Jesus taught us the two great commands, “You shall love the Lord your God . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
I wish I’d let myself be happier. This reflection, which was quite common, nudges us toward seeing that happiness is a by-product of choices we make. With St. Francis we then pray: “grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
Truth is, it is by love that we are created, and it is in — and for — love that we live!