On the Futility of Deathbed Regrets

Some idle thoughts to amuse myself this evening

You’ve probably seen one of those popular articles about the most common regrets of dying people. These types of articles tend to reinforce cliched truisms. No one wishes they’d worked more on their deathbed, one maxim goes. He who does with the most toys still dies, says another.

But here’s what I’m wondering: Why is “the way we feel upon our deathbed” considered the most relevant measurement of a life? Those final days or hours are a mere blip on our timeline, and an infinitesimal percentage of our life experience. It just doesn’t seem rational to care that deeply about one specific moment, as it’s no more important than any other.

If I have a deathbed, and enough time to contemplate anything on my way out, first I’d want to tell my loved ones how happy they’ve made me. And then I’d partake of the fun experiences only available to the nearly dead. I could make ghostly howls under the sheets to freak out visiting children. Or I could steal a cop car and drive around town making citizens arrests. With access to an Uber and Amazon Prime, I could dress myself in fetish wear and lay down to die in the living room of my least favorite politician, surrounded by tidy piles of cocaine. (I assume that by the year of my death Prime will deliver literally anything) My last phone call could be to a NYTimes tip line. Bring a photographer, I’ll shout through an Amazon Basics brand voice synthesizer. You’re gonna wanna see this!

Obviously I’m joking! 😏 But I’m fairly certain I won’t be wasting my final days with regrets. If dying me were to bemoan the choices 20 year old me made, I can only imagine 20 year old me flipping myself off through the space-time continuum, asking what gives me the right. Young me made her choices willingly and freely. Ditto for current me. And the same goes for whatever me will be laying in bed at the end (and may it be many decades from now).

Regrets, should we have them, are better addressed in the moment I think. We can apologize for our mistakes. We can make amends when we’ve hurt people. Most importantly, we can resolve to be better now instead of assuming things will work themselves out someday. We all know, at least at some level, that someday may never arrive.

If I could choose how I’ll exit this world, I’d prefer to either die painlessly in my sleep or be eaten by a rampaging T-Rex while a horrified crowd screams all around me. Make it quick or make it interesting.

Either way, no regrets.