People talk about moments that stick with them forever. Moments where you remember the colours and smells in high definition – no detail lost to your memory. I was recently in Australia when I experienced one of those moments. Weeks later, I can now close my eyes and recall it better than most events in my life. It’s not a happy memory, but I’m glad I’ve got it. Let me share it with you and you’ll see why:
It was 1am and I was sitting on the edge of a squeaky fake leather chair next to my dad’s hospital bed when my dad uttered these words:
I wish I had done more…
The only light in the room was coming through the crack in the door, but my eyes had become accustomed to the dark and I could see how sad he suddenly looked. It was the evening that he was closest to death, and when he feel silent for the next hour I honestly believed they were going to be his last words.
I let the tears silently stream down my face, hoping that the dim light wouldn’t betray me as I held his hand and tried to think of what to say. I said words like I’m here; You’re loved; We’ve had some wonderful times together, but I’ve never felt the emptiness of words like I did in those hours. Mainly we sat in silence and waited. Waited for sleep. Waited for death. Waited for his body to start living again. We waited together, the two of us, and life won.
My father had been on a cruise when he became seriously ill. His doctors suggested that I fly back to Australia to say my goodbye’s to him. As it turns out, he wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet, but that moment in a hospital ward will stick with me forever.
Most of you reading this will have never known my father, but nobody wants to be on their death bed yearning for more. We all like to imagine that if we have any time to dwell on it, that we would have a grateful heart and a smile on our face from our wonderful memories.
Not that my dad doesn’t have happy memories – he does. He’s known for regaling anyone who will stand near him for long enough with stories from his life. Yet, in what might have been his last hour, he wished he had done more.
It’s hardly a new thought – particularly at this time of year when the world is thinking about new years resolutions – to want to live a full life, to want to live your dreams, to want to have no regrets when your end comes. But I do not want to come to my end – whenever that may be – and be thinking those same words.
I intend to use those words that echo in my mind to help inspire me to live the life I want. To push me away from the TV when I don’t really need to watch ‘one more episode’. To help me choose the hard way when it’s what I really want, instead of just opting for what’s quick and easy now. To remind me to not just live inside my own head but to connect with others and let them in. To use it to soften rejection and the stumbling points along the way of living a full life and chasing my dreams.
I hope these lessons from a hospital bed can help inspire you too. Live your life, every single day of it, so that you won’t be filled with yearning at the end of it.