The most popular piece on the Guardian's site over the weekend has been a short article entitled Top Five Regrets of the Dying. It's based on a blog - now book - by an Australian palliative care nurse called Bronnie Ware, who found common themes in the "dying epiphanies" of her patients. In short-form, these common regrets are:
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
But what if our old age is as as full of self-justification, self-deception, misrememberings and willed illusions as the rest of our time on earth? In fact, what if it's more so, as the pressure to force the random stuff of experience into a coherent narrative reaches its highest intensity, and our cognitive skills reach their nadir? That combination might produce something that only seems like clarity, or wisdom.
I would say we'll only know when we get there. But of course, that's not true.