It has been said, that in your last moments, your life flashes before you, reenacting the scenes, up to the point where you are ready to move on. As a doctor, I have cared for and watched after many patients and I have found a constant among those plagued by ailments and suffering. Regret. It is the single most important burden many carry to their deathbed. And their burden has taught me how to live my life.
Money is not evil, lack of it is.
Start reading and researching on financial planning early. Invest and keep your finances secure and balanced. Many patients cannot afford the best healthcare when they most need it simply because they did not anticipate and save in advance. If you live in a country where healthcare isn’t free or subsidized, it would help tremendously if you could obtain a health insurance. Plan your expenses judiciously and always save up for retirement. It would be too late to start when you fall ill. The mental anguish of not being able to work and provide for your family can gravely affect your recuperation.
Start taking care of your health now
Health is a precious asset. In most countries, the common causes of mortality and morbidity are due to preventable and modifiable diseases. Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and dyslipidemia are related to your diet and lifestyle. So start eating healthy, go for regular exercise and get proper medical check ups. Reduce the sugar in your diet and count your calorie intake. Start teaching your kids to care for their health and get the whole family involved. It is infinitely far better to cook and eat at home for you will be in control of what you put in your food. A sound health will enable you to lead a more wholesome life.
Travel to new places
It is a constant regret among my patients that they did not travel enough when they were young and healthy. Traveling to new places enriches you in more ways than you know. It creates new bonds, strengthens current relationships and rekindles lost passion and romance. If life is moving too fast and it’s draining your soul away, take a sabbatical and work in a foreign country. Immerse yourself in a new culture with new people and get a fresh start. You may never know how it could change your life.
Don’t hold grudges
It is very difficult for a doctor to watch his patients die. It is worse if you have to watch them die alone. Cherish your friends and loved ones. Don’t allow petty arguments to ruin years of friendship and love. Keep your ego locked up. Sometimes, it’s better to apologize and move on regardless of whose fault it might have been. Forgive generously if you have been hurt. If you think of someone who means a lot to you, call now. Don’t wait. If you love someone, say it now. Don’t let them slip away. Time is cruel to those who keep love and friendship locked within. Look past the imperfections for to be loved is the only perfect thing in the world. And it the only thing that makes sense.
Your family is a gift
Spend time with your family as much as you can. Don’t work too hard. And don’t bring your work home. Find the right balance. Be present when your children are growing up as your presence can influence their formative years. Show up and be there for them when they need you, for one day they will do the same for you. If you have not told them how much they mean to you, say it now. Never hesitate. Go forth. Steal that kiss, hold that hand a while longer or hug them a little bit closer. And always remember; to have a family is a privilege and a gift, not a birthright.
Don’t remain in abusive relationships
I once had a patient with chronic kidney disease who refused dialysis. She finally revealed that she would rather die than to remain married to her husband who has been abusing her for years, and yet she continues to endure. Don’t choose to be unhappy in a relationship. It does not matter how long you have been in it. If someone truly loves you, they will never hurt you in any way. Have the courage to walk away towards a life and a person you truly deserve. And you will be happy.
Don’t settle in life
Fear of the unknown and being relatively comfortable with their current life has forced many people to settle for something very different from what they really set out for. They cast their dreams aside and grow old yearning for something that was always within their reach, but the walls they have built around their psyche, blocks them from attaining it.
Lead a righteous and honest life
Don’t lead a life shackled by deceit and envy. Be genuinely happy for the achievements of others. This is a world of abundance. It is filled with more than you could possibly want. Don’t be lured by the temptation to cheat and manipulate others. Never knowingly or consciously hurt someone especially the ones you love. The guilt will eat you up and stain your conscience for life. And it will never wash away.
Reflect on your life
Take some time off your daily routine to reflect on your life. This is important. Upon reflection we can obtain a sense of direction and conviction, to realign our lives the way we want it. Difficult and unpredictable circumstances can lead us astray and it’s important to have a sound bearing and clear conscience. As John Dewey once said, “We do not learn from experience.. we learn from reflecting on experience.”
Get closer to God
The answers we have all been looking for have always been there. We just didn’t know where to look. Regardless of your religious beliefs, God is a constant and He will embrace you, even in your most shattered form. Ask and He will give you the answers. Surrender and He will show you the way. Fall and He will raise you up.
As I write this down I am reminded of each and every patient whose shared experiences made me the person I am today. Some may have passed on and to them I dedicate this quote by Kahlil Gibran,
“For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountaintop,then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs,then shall you truly dance.”
And to all of them, I am eternally grateful. Thank you.