No Deathbed Regrets
JANUARY 24, 2017
I read an article written by a hospice nurse who made a list of the top five regrets people shared with her from their deathbed. There were some regrets you would expect, working too much, not spending enough time with loved ones, etc. But the number one regret was this: I wish I would have had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
These people had, for most of their life, kept quiet in order to keep the peace with other people. They had let others silence them with expectations. In a sense, they lived a false version of themselves and for what? False peace.
On your deathbed there is nothing left to lose. There is an honesty one must have at least with oneself. Have I said what I needed to say? Have I done what I wanted to do with my life? What would I do differently if I had a second chance?
In this regard, chronic illness can be a gift. It forces you to ask yourself those questions early. You have no choice but to surrender your body to the One who was in control of it all along. You have deathbed clarity.
If He gives you a little bit of health back—you don’t want to squander it with silly things or fake peacekeeping. You want to be as honest as you can, and say the things that need to be said—peace or no peace. In so doing, you find out who your real friends are and who are the people who were just using you all along. Genuine friends, you find, will not try to silence, control, edit, or fix you.
I have an auto-immune disease that I HATE to talk about. I hate to be a drag. I hate to explain to a million people the day to day of symptoms and drugs. Since it is mostly an invisible illness—people just don’t and can’t understand. I get it. I didn’t understand before it happened to me either. They look at me and say: Well you LOOK fine. Conclusion? You must be fine. Thanks for the diagnosis folks but I think I’ll go hide with Jesus for awhile. See ya on the flip side.
Occasionally it shows-up big. When it does, it is frightening. I feel out of control and like I don’t know how many more of these episodes I can survive. Ironically, I combat it with drugs that are poisonous to my body. In the heat of the battle with illness, you realize how little control you have (Please do not take this as an invitation to sell me your “health” products—been there, done that, paid the price).
It is not like I can beat my liver into submission, or my skin, or my heart. None of us will survive the curse. When God is done sustaining my body—my body will be done sustaining me.
It sounds dramatic to those who have not experienced it, but I have had a few experiences where I lay in bed wondering if my liver can possibly survive any more drugs, or if I can bear one more season of flare-ups. I have asked myself those honest questions that I imagine folks on their deathbed have asked.
Each time, it’s the same thing. I fight with the Lord because there are so many things I still want to do. I throw myself on the couch like a two-year old having a fit. I cry to my husband (who, by the way, becomes my hero in these moments). I lay there and remember that “It is finished.” There is nothing for me to do to gain God’s favor. I have it in Christ. I remind myself that I am not responsible for anyone else’s spiritual growth. Things at church will get done by other people. I surrender and pray, confess my fear, and accept my limitations. I wait to get better—or not.
I had a friend ask me one time how I became so brave. I laughed because of how much of my life I have spent as a slave to people-pleasing. We don’t make ourselves brave, I said. There is never a time where I am more dependent upon Christ than when I am laying in bed fighting this illness. I am never more honest with myself, and therefore others, than when I am in that place. When you have lost your health, there are very few things left to lose. People become brave when they have nothing left to lose.
I think many of our problems in the Christian community could be solved if everyone could experience a season of illness. Everyone would get honest. All of the things we squabble and fight about would seem so petty and self-righteous. On your deathbed, you see your “personal holiness” for what it is—a load of crap. You wouldn’t dare offer that pile to the Lord. You see your need for Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on your behalf because there’s no time left to do penance, or enough good works to outdo your bad. You realize if karma is true, you’re screwed. You will reap what you sowed unless Christ sowed and reaped for you.
On your deathbed, faith is tested like it never was before. What you really believe the gospel to be becomes crystal clear. Is it the good news that Jesus paid it all for you with His life and death? Or is there something left for you to earn? Illness is a special gift from the Lord that allows you to rest in faith, before you are forced to lay it all out in death.
With the little bit of health that I have, I will preach the good news of a Savior who fulfilled the law on my behalf. I will expose spiritual abuse. I will love my husband, children, and church family with all my heart. I will defend the weak and the powerless, because I am one of them. And I will be loyal to any preacher who stands on this Rock.
Find more from Marci Preheim here.