Four statements that could serve us well this Thanksgiving.
Spending several decades as a hospice doctor, Dr. Ira Byock learned much about the process of death. Perhaps surprisingly, though, spending years among the dying taught him even more about living.
In their final days, his patients often reiterated what many of us know to be true. That experiences matter more than things. That life is temporary and each moment a gift. That we should strive to contribute to something bigger than ourselves.
But for many of us, these platitudes become part of the noise. A quote card we scroll through on social media or see in the aisles of Homegoods. Something we say when other words escape us.
For Byock, though, these weren’t just bumper stickers. These were the words and scenes played out not in the noise but in the quiet. Witnessed in patient after patient, family after family, year after year.
But here’s the good news, my friends: We do not have to wait until our own final days are upon us or until we are at the bedside of someone we care about to live out these end of life lessons. He’s distilled years of experience into four short but mighty statements that allow us all to be liberated from the burden of regret.
I forgive you.
We have all been let down, discouraged, or wronged by others. There are disagreements – spoken and unspoken- we have with those we care for most that linger for years and poison our most important connections. ‘I forgive you’ frees us from carrying a grudge that further damages a relationship and allows the person we share it with to recognize we accept them as they are.
Please forgive me.
One of the most difficult aspects of any relationship is the awareness of when we have wronged another. Recognizing it is important, but humbly, sincerely asking for forgiveness brings us closer to true reconciliation and fullness in that relationship.
In a highly independent existence where individuality is prized above all else, we’ve been taught if we strive hard enough, we can achieve greatness. In reality, we do very little by ourselves. We are made to be in community with others and much of what we accomplish is because of them not in spite of them. Letting others know they matter, they are seen, and are a part of our journey helps give others purpose.
I love you.
Perhaps the sweetest words we can hear from another human being. They matter profoundly as we approach the end, but also each day we’re fortunate enough to be alive.
These four statements are powerful words to hear and speak when we’re near the end of our lives, certainly. But this week as we step into a season of Thanksgiving, surrounded by family and friends, rather than wait to share these life-changing words, let’s say them now.
Dying is inevitable.
But learning from those who are facing it and immediately acting upon those learnings liberates us not only from potential regrets, but permits us to be far more joyful, loving, and free in the life we have.
Today is your day. Live Inspired.