Top 5 regrets when you die

This is worth sharing.  Most of the time when I get these types of emails I trash them immediately because its always “send it to 10 people immediately or your right testicle will get elephantitis”. 

When I read it, I thought that this is probably the truth.  When I think about how many of the people I know (including myself), don’t think about this very much I realised it was worth sharing.  Read it and spend 10 minutes to really think about it.


For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learned never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people have not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence. By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
Often they 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 is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying. Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness. 

We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.
-Frederick Koenig


Fathers Day Reflection

The following text by the Prophet Gibran is something that should be memorised by all parents.  I read this often to remind myself that as a father I owe my daughters this.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, 
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, 
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, 
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

Christchurch earthquake – one very personal insight

A friend from NZ shared the following email that he recieved from someone who is an ambulance officer in Christchurch.  It is a very personal view of his experiences;

Subject: [nzfire] 22 February 2011

  I dont know where to start.  I havent seen any media, I dont know the strength of the main quake or even where it was.

I was sitting down studying when the quake hit.  My weighted down plasma screen went first and exploded.  I tried to stand up and was thrown to the ground.  Everything fell/broke all around me.
I checked on the neighbours, threw everything I could think of into the car with the dogs and went to work.  All the roads were devastation.  It took me 45 mins to travel 7kms to city station flashing my lights and hazards. The new city station is condemned and inundated with over a foot of mud.  There were just a handful of us there initially and we travelled in convoy to an MCI triage centre in Latimer Square.  On the way we saw utter devastation cars that were obviously occupied totally flatted, obvious deaths.  Thankfully a medical conference was on nearby meaning when we got to the square there was excellent co-ordination.  Bodies were being piled up in one corner and as one of the higher qualified officers on scene I was given a status 2 patient to assess.  She had fallen from the top of the CTV building to the ground.  After a nightmare drive to hospital we returned to Latimer square where more and more resources were arriving.  I then became a triage officer deciding who was saveable and who wasnt.  At the same time CTV was burning just in front of me and was being wate rbombed as there was no reticulation – more and more fire appliances from further and further away kept arriving.  It was unbelievable with the smoke, flame, alarms, sirens, helicopters and screams.  The church opposite then collapsed following a large aftershock narrowly missing a number of fire and ambulance vehicles.  Drugs were at a premium.  Patients were arriving from everywhere.  We were not allowed into the cordons despite pleas from bystanders.  People were dragged out, carried out on doors, shutters.  I ended up assisting the doctors as a treatment officer, most injuries were severe massive crush injuries.  The smoke from CTV was so bad we were nearly evacuated several times.  Police were letting family members inside the cordons to approach us to ask about their mum, their dad, their brother etc who was in the cordon and especially the CTV building.  I kept rotating through roles until I was tasked to crew a transport ambulance.  After a while we went mobile and heard a call come in for an unknown incident in Cambridge Terrace.  I responded us and as we tried to make our way through the broken buildings and streets a report came through that there were multiple trapped.
On arrival I later discovered that this was the PGG building.  A foot crew had arrived on scene some four hours earlier and had been trying to manage with minimal resources and no comms.  No-one knew they were there.  They had already experienced horrific sights you could not imagine.  They went up into the destroyed building (until later withdrawn).  One held a man, gave him his cellphone so he could ring his wife.  He told her he loved her then died.  Another colleague was faced with a horribly entrapped man.  There was no way he could be saved and while we watched on hopelessly and helplessly he received a lethal dose of drugs to end his horrible suffering.
We were the only road vehicle there initially and hopelessly underresourced.  Our first patient brought out was a beautiful 20 year old girl.  Her spine had been shattered she was contorted horribly and was paralysed.  She was in irreversible shock and lost consciousness as we went.  I fought so hard with a surgeon to keep her alive.  She didnt make it..  Patients were brought out straight into our vehicle and driven straight to hospital doing whatever we could on the way.  Our last patient had been pinned for some time by his legs.  Crews from Addington and St Albans together with two Brontos did every damn thing they could to get him out.  In the end a surgeon had to amputate both legs using mainly FS tools.  We waited desperately to get him into the vehicle.  I drove as fast as I could on appaling roads that we later could not return on.  He died as we arrived at hospital.  In the meantime another man had been pinned by his legs by a massive beam.  We arranged to uplift all the necessary drugs to prevent crush syndrome.  WHen we returned he had died.  We worked into the night but the flow of patients diminished.  Patients were either critical or walked out.  More resources arrived as I tried to explain the nature of the entrapment over the disjointed radio.  I didnt realise there were so many other scenes not just mine around the city.  The rain started and we were replaced.  I wanted to stay but by now was purely working automatically.  We returned to the Square to sign out and I got taken back to my car which by now was surrounded by liquifaction.  I returned home briefly to gather some more things and then went to a friends house in Oxford.  It took me two hours to drive across the city.  My friend has a new earthquake proof house on isolated pads, solar power and generator and artesian water.  Despite only feeling one aftershock I didnt sleep.  I cant stay there any more as I feel I am imposing.
I went back to work the next day.  Abandoned South City mall carpark is full of liquifaction but our base.  We had 38 ambulances working at the start of the day, I believe with the arrival of all the Wellington Free and Southern ambulances we got to 45 or 46.  80 further staff from all over the country were brought in.  The day was spent going to patients who had been trapped unfound since the initial quake, our HQ building is unsafe as is our comms building.  Comms staff have been flown to Auckland.  Dispatch would call jobs over the radio and the closest truck would grab it.  Most bridges in the eastern part of the city are impassable.  There was only 1 bridge open and some streets are completely inaccessable due to liquifiaction.  You simply cant drive or walk in the stuff.  Again we were ordered off the road – I needed to keep working.  My beloved dogs were being looked after by complete strangers I didnt even know where they were.  I have been ordered to stay away today, our roles are being filled by exisiting rostered staff and ring ins.  The idea is so we can spend time with our families etc but I have none and instead am sitting in a house surrounded by glass and fire and ambulance books strewn around the house.  One dog wont even come inside the house.  Aftershocks are continual.  I am told I have appeared on TV several times.  I dont know I dont care.  I went to fill up this am in Rangiora and had to wait 15 mins.  In Belfast the queues for petrol were over 2kms long.  At the supermarket people were fighting over food and space at the checkout.
I honestly dont want to be at home.  My dogs are my prime concern, if I could get them safe I would be happier.  I dont really want to live in ChCh any more but cant and wont quit my job.  I want to be at work now.  I am meant to fly to Wellington on Tuesday for a course.  That may or may not have been cancelled.  NO-one will say.  No-one will look after the dogs anyway.
Maybe I will feel better soon.  I dont think we could have done anything differently.  I am proud of what I did I just feel numb. I got 1 hours sleep last night.
I am sorry to unload on you all.  I dont know what the next few days will bring or if/when I will get access again.
Thank you everyone for your messages and concern. 

Coming home to NZ – weird!

I don’t know about others, but each time that I come back to NZ it creates a very real sense of weirdness for me.  I was born and grew up here, but through divine providence I worked for Air NZ after leaving school which gave me the freedom to begin to travel.  When I look back at this now I sure that the job at Air NZ was more than divine providence, because as soon as I travelled outside of NZ, I knew in my bones that I would leave probably never to return permanently.  The wonderful thing about hindsight is that when you look back everything is very clear and obvious, but even living through my earlier years in NZ I knew I never fitted in.  I always felt that I was viewing my life from a parallel, slightly disconnected viewpoint.  it was all happening “over there”.  When I left permanently 25 years ago it was with no regrets, it was clear that I HAD to leave.  I don’t come back here very often, which is a conscious choice.  I was here 2 years ago and this trip was certainly not planned. 

The weirdness started as I sat on the airplane from Singapore to AKL, reading the weekend edition of the NZ Herald, the nationally distributed newspaper.  Front page – nothing of any real note, then I turned to the second page.  To put this into context, the weekend edition must have something like 200 pages and weigh 1.5kgs, so there is clearly a lot to write about. Well not really as it transpires.  So, I turn the first page of this significant document and there on page 2, the top 50% of the page is devoted to………………

– if you thought about the monetary crises in Ireland (wrong), the events in Nth Korea (wrong), educational challenges in the developing world (wrong), human rights (wrong) – no, in fact you could read about some NZ girl called Kate who (oh my god) is getting married on the same day as Kate & William (heir to UK throne).  Are they planning a double wedding? Nope the royal couple get married in the UK and NZ Kate and her partner get married here.  Holy shit, has that made a difference to my life.  Now I understand why they gave it the top 50% of page 2 along with colour photo’s.

It is the smallness of the place that does my head in.  I always see it resulting in ‘small thought processes’.  I know this is unfair because there are an awful lot of people who love living here and millions more who want to live here, but I just can’t because it feels like I would commit mental suicide.  This of course is my own very personal perspective and I know for my friends who live here their reality is of course very different.  But when I go through the local newspaper it does reinforce the feeling of – ‘I am only here 10 days, just make sure you don’t break a leg which keeps you here a day longer’.

I do have this feeling that in the future my 2 daughters could very well end up living here, which of course will be karma giving me the middle finger.  Lets see what happens over the next few days and I will keep you posted.

Geoffrey Bennun – Your Chocolate conversation with God

Dearest Geoffrey,

I thought I should give you some time to have the conversations that I know you will need to have with God, before reminding you of your conversation with my youngest daughter in our kitchen in Amsterdam in June.  Just to remind you;

“Listen, when I am dead I am going to have a conversation with God to get him to explain why he decided to make really great things like chocolate, bad for you. Why couldn’t he have decided that the more chocolate that you eat the skinnier and healthier you become?  It doesn’t make any sense, if he is responsible for all things I definitely need to talk to him about this, because it makes no sense to me at all”.


Geoffrey Bennun – Update

Because so many friends of Geoffrey have read this blog, I thought it would be appropriate to post any updates as I get them, which will help to keep everyone informed as there are so many unanswered questions.  I received the following information in an email this morning.  I have edited it slightly.

 Geoffrey was the victim of a home invasion robbery, he was shot whilst seated at the dining table and there is evidence that he was forced to write his signature as some paper was left behind on the table with his signature repeated several times.

His girlfriend was shot in the bedroom.   His valuables, laptop and mobile phone were stolen.

Trevor is going to arrange a cremation in Manilla, which will be one day next week.  His Niece and Nephew will arrive from Canada in the morning.

Geoffrey Bennun

 Sometimes things happen, that really make you sit back and consider how the choices you make in your life do determine a path and an outcome.  Geoffrey has been my friend for more than 20 years.  We met when we worked for the hotel management company ‘All Seasons’ as General Managers.  We immediately gravitated to each other because in our own individual ways we are non-conformists.  Over those 20 years our friendship has deepened.  He came to Holland to be with me at my wedding and we would see each other every couple of years as Geoffrey undertook one of his world trips to catch up with all his “good buddies”.

In May, he came to Amsterdam once again where he stayed with Karine and I, before heading off on a Dutch canal cruise for a week with his Australian friends ‘Darling & Darling’.  On Saturday June 5, we all went to Restaurant Dauphine on a beautiful summers evening to celebrate Geoffrey’s 60th birthday, which was that day.  It was very special because he pretended that he didn’t want to celebrate this milestone at all, but you could see that he was very happy.  The waiter took photos of the two of us, arms around each other, happy in the knowledge that we shared a real friendship.  How do I know it was a real friendship, it was simple.  I knew with complete certainty that if I was ever in real trouble I could call Geoffrey and he would come and he would do whatever was in his power to help me.  He also knew that of me.

Geoffrey has had a full, if non-conventional life.  When he was still in his 20’s he set up a Peace Foundation in Vancouver which he passionately believed in, he went on to build a very successful career in hotels, opening a number of 5 star properties primarily in Asia, he ran the Media Village at the Sydney Olympics, was a Director of F&B on a cruise ship and then decided to retire because he was convinced that he would die from cancer at a relatively early age, as had his mother, father and sister.  Every year he undertook a barrage of medical tests in Sydney, looking for any sign that his prediction would come true.  In between regular medical tests he would travel. 

This May/June when we were together we had a lot of conversations about life, death and when he would finally leave his life in Asia and move back to Sydney.  He loved living in Asia, but he found it so limiting and in truth he found that he was lonely.  When I dropped him at Schiphol airport I told him that I will come and see him sometime within the next year and check out his place.  We recently exchanged emails and I agreed to visit him in October, the last email from Geoffrey being 7 days ago.

Why am I writing this story? It is to help me deal with the news today that sometime within the last 7 days, Geoffrey and his friend Abby were murdered in his house in Angeles City in the Philippines.  Following an argument, they were both shot dead with a 9mm  pistol.

I took this photo of Geoffrey in June whilst he was sitting at my dining room table and we in the midst of yet another long discussion.

Geoffrey was a gentle soul and a very kind man.  He always helped out others even when he knew he would never get his money back.  His eccentricity endeared him to a lot of people and he was genuinely loved in return.  He did make a difference to a lot of people’s lives and we have all lost something that will leave a hole in our hearts for a very long time.

I never did get that photo of the two of us at Restaurant Dauphine.