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Staying In Touch

October 2, 2019

Last week we began a series of blog conversations surrounding some research by Bronnie Ware. She is a therapist who worked in palliative care with people who were dying. She developed relationships with them and interviewed them about any regrets they might have. She identified the five most common regrets of the dying and shared them in a profoundly provocative book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying—A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing.

Last week we considered regret #5: “I wish that I had let myself be happier.” It is so surprisingly common for people to realize that happiness is a choice. Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

Regret #4: “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.” Ware says, “Often the dying would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks, and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks: love and relationships.

This is a tough one for me personally. I am not the best friend. Oh, I am loyal, and I love my friends. But by this I mean that I am not great at staying in touch with people. My sister Jean, who is now with Jesus, was great at it. You couldn’t be with her long without her mentioning the name of someone from her/our history, and she had just talked with them or seen them. She was all about connections. It was marvelous and brought her and many others great joy. It was a serendipitous thing as well. Jeannie died very suddenly, in a moment of time, without even a chance of trying to get to see her friends before she left us. People from over the last 50 years came to her calling hours and services with deep love and many stories to tell, because their relationship was not past—it was present. 

I have what I consider dear lifelong friends for whom I would do anything if they called me. Yet I have not prioritized or been disciplined enough to find the time to be proactively consistent in connecting with them. This one hits me hard.

You say you have friends. Sure, I do too. Most of the ones with whom I interact are geographically close. The other friends are somewhat forgotten in the dailiness of life. Yet when I do have occasion to see a friend I haven’t seen in a very long time, an entire flood of emotions come over me, and I feel what I have been missing. We have had several dearly loved and extremely close family members die in the last couple of years. These times have been the occasion for seeing precious friends I haven’t seen in years, and the emotion of it is overwhelming.

Here’s the thing. It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But, as Bronnie says, “When you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks: love and relationships.”

Friendships are not just important when you are dying. They are so important right now. Friends to a very large degree determine the direction and quality of your life. The apostle Paul knew it. He wrote his friends back in the day when that was a challenge. He told his Philippian friends, “I thank God for every remembrance of you.”

Good friends who love, respect, challenge, support, understand, and stand by us are among life’s greatest gifts. What friend needs to hear from you this week? We just have NOW to make those contacts.