What is a life well lived?

I went to a funeral this week.

It was a humanist funeral which celebrated all that Alan had been and all that he had done and all the ways in which he had touched people’s lives.  And as I sat there, I reflected on how well he had lived his life.

Death introduced itself to me when I was young and has traveled with me ever since.  Many spiritual traditions encourage us to keep death in mind as we live our lives and whilst I would never have chosen the bereavements I have lived with, death has been a powerful guide in my life.

For a while I volunteered in an adult hospice.  I would sit and listen to people who knew they were dying. One week they would be there and the next week when I went it, often they were gone.  Not one of them talked about the cars they wish they’d bought, the promotions  they’d taken or the money they had earned.

All of them talked about the people they loved and how they wished they had loved harder. How they wished they had spent more time with their children, their parents, their partners.  They remembered special moments of connection with loved ones, they remembered moments of beauty, of peace, of love.

The regrets were not about promotions not gained or investments that didn’t flourish; their regrets were about the way they hurt people and caused them pain.  They regretted not having listened to their own hearts, they regretted time spent doing what they thought they should do rather than what they wanted to do.

They regretted living by someone else’s rules, they regretted not having shared their thoughts and feelings more openly.  They regretted not staying in touch with friends, they regretted working too hard and they regretted not allowing themselves to be happier.

  • What are your regrets?
  • How can you learn from those regrets?
  • What would you regret on your death bed if you didn’t do it or express it?

A good life is not measured in exam grades, salary, promotions, status,  public recognition and material possessions.

A life well lived is one where we love deeply, openly and generously.  A life well lived is one where we touch the lives of others in a positive way, where we do what we can to help, to support, to alleviate pain and suffering.

We live well when we live authentically, when we don’t listen to what we ‘should do’ what we must do, what we ought to do to impress others, but when we follow our heart, our intuition and our values and let them guide us.

  • What is it that you are called to do, that your heart and intuition want you to do?

A life well lived is one where we take pleasure in this moment, then this moment, then this small moment; flower by flower, traffic jam, oceans, and firelight reading, all moments that are ours and then are gone.

  • How will you make sure that you live a good life?

‘I am not the least afraid to die’  Charles Darwin, d. April 19, 1882.
I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
~~ Errol Flynn, actor, d. October 14, 1959
John Wayne died at age 72 in L.A. He turned to his wife and said, “Of course I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.”

I would like to die having had fun, having loved hard, having made a difference to people’s lives.

Death is my friend, it reminds me of what matters, of how precious life is, or how fleetingly we are here then gone.

I wish for us all, a life well lived.


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