I’ve had death and how our collective culture revolves around, relates to and treats death for the last month since my cousin died. I heard of his death in a car accident at midday on a Thursday.
Within a few days, I heard mention of Bucket Lists at least three times. And multiple other times in recent weeks. My emotions over the last month swam far, deep and wide. I have been quite irritated when I hear about “bucket lists” because a tone of jovial, fun-filled, and this-is-cool accompanies it. Much of my irritation is due to the material or experiential aspect of most things that populate these lists — hot air balloons, travel, bungee cord jumping. It feels like yet another instance where we are supposed to wear happy faces and feel great, even though most of our feelings about death and transition are not happiness nor greatness.
On the other hand, I first learned about Unfinished Business two years ago when I opened a first book by Elisabeth Kubler–Ross, which was either The Tunnel and the Light or On Death and Dying. Ahh, the joys of reading and the power that new ideas, when remembered, can have on altering my own life. Since first reading Kubler-Ross, Unfinished Business has become a counterpoint, or an antidote, to the Bucket List.
Unfinished business, according to a summary of how Kubler Ross described it to a six year old with a dying sister, is:
anything that you haven’t done, because this is your last chance to say or do anything you want to do, so that you don’t have to worry about it afterwards when it is too late.
Forgiveness. Love. Freedom. Permission. These are the simple and fundamental things in life. For some odd reasons (including attempts to control and manipulate others) we have a tendency to make life much more complex and messy than these staples.
Unfinished business is affirmed by reading this list of the five biggest regrets (biggest wishes, in other words) of people approaching death, which was compiled by a palliative care nurse. The five biggest regrets/wishes are:
- wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected.
- wish I didn’t work so hard.
- wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.
- wish I’d let myself be happier.
Courage. Live truly. Play. Express feelings. Touch. Happiness.
C.L.T.P.E.F.T.H. is a word game worthy of befriending the 5 As of David Richo: acceptance, affection, allowance, appreciation, attention.
At this moment in my life, I am attending to finishing my business in this life by:
- appreciating and celebrating people sooner, on the same day or as soon as possible
- not holding onto grudges with family, friends, coworkers or strangers
- eating well, sleeping when and as much as I can,
- writing more and more by honoring the urge when it arises
- telling my parents, siblings, more females and males that I love them
- sharing the ways that love looks
- letting go of the need to have someone say “I love you, too” after I tell them of my love.
- responding “thank you” (rather than “I love you, too”) when someone tells me that they love me
- eating chocolate and baking cookies or bread more often
- accessing compassion (for others and myself) quickly
- slowing down
- recognizing that the only person’s who’s accolades and approval to concern myself with is me