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Live, Love, and Matter in the Middle

How being "mindful in the middle of life" can help children and elderly with end of life.

Photo of Christine Cress
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I came across the book title "The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying" by a home health nurse named Bronnie Ware.  You'll miss the story telling if you let this list be a substitute for actually reading the book but in summary the top 5 are: 1) Not having the courage to live the life I want vs. what others expect 2) Working too hard 3) Not having the courage to express your feelings 4) Not staying in touch with friends 5) Realizing that happiness is a choice. It made me think, "If these are the top regrets, then what do I need to do to avoid those regrets?" And "What am I doing if I am not connecting with people and living the life I want?" As a representative of "the busy middle" - parenting two young kids and having parents in mid to late 70's, I can say I had been busy doing all the things that lead to those regrets. Working a lot, multi-tasking, rushing, vegging out after a lot of stress, and buying stuff not required for truly connecting with people I love. 

Making sense of things for kids and being there for elderly parents takes spaciousness and time. Contemplation of life's tough questions happens in quiet and still moments, not when I am at Target getting another set of backyard BBQ cups and plates. 

At the risk of overemphasizing my role to everyone, I have asked myself- how will I be ready to answer difficult questions from my 7 year old when they arise at unexpected times? How can I make time to be needed by my elderly parents so they do not feel my sense of overwhelm and consequently feel uneasy about their end of life journey when it is their turn? How can I minimize my own trepidation with facing the end of life? 

When I think about this inspiration phase- how do I envision making the end of life easier for myself and loved ones- I think of how I am living, not how I will be dying.

For me, it starts with building a life that has space in it- space to think, space in your checkbook so you are not always chasing after the next promotion or the next material thing to fill your life with, space to sit with and be with the people you love in ways you will remember. 

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

How can you create more space in your life free from busy-ness that distracts us from truly being with people? How can we live a life that minimizes the top 5 regrets of the dying mentioned above?

Tell us about your work experience:

I'm a late in life mom with 2 boys who already fear dying and parents whose needs are increasing with each year. I work with healthcare leadership and I am a hobby blogger about life and leadership.

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Photo of Mansi Parikh

Hi Christine, Thanks for sharing your personal experience. You mention being a late in life Mom and worrying about answering the tough questions from your kids. Many community members have mentioned discussing end of life with their loved ones is extremely difficult. Have you had any ideas on how you might approach these questions if your boys were to ask them? 

Photo of Christine Cress

Thank you for your comment. Yes, I have ideas. It's already come up. I've had to practice this already! It started with having to put our family pet down when he had congestive heart failure. And then with the death of a child two doors down. I think my job as a parent is to acknowledge the loss feelings while also shaping this time of life to be not so scary in their minds. How about you? Have you had to deal with this too??