No Regrets – Part Two

23 May

Recently I was made aware of a wonderful book written by an Australian palliative care nurse by the name of Bronnie Ware, entitled, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. Each of the five regrets is monumental. I recently wrote about the number one regret in No Regrets; I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Today I would like to share with you my thoughts on regret number two; I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

Ms. Ware describes this as mostly a male thing but says that many women, especially in our western culture, are beginning to experience this grievous regret at an alarming rate. This regret is typically felt in the form of guilt that we are not spending enough time with our children.

Let me tell you my story. I was created to work. To work hard and to sacrifice myself so that my wife and children would have everything they desired. It was infused in me from the time I was a small boy, handed down through hundreds of generations as if it was the 11th commandment: Thou shall provide handsomely for thy wife and children…even if it kills you. So, there was never any doubt that when my wife and I had our first child, I would turn on the afterburner and become, Super Provider.

I had a great role model, my Dad. When I was ten years old he started his own business with a partner and we never saw him again. Yes, I am exaggerating, but he did work the first few years nearly seven days a week, tapering off to six days a week in the following years. He wouldn’t leave work until 6:00 PM and by the time he arrived home it was just in time for dinner. We all ate fast so we could race off to the living room to watch prime time television, which started at 7:00. By the time prime time ended at 10:00 PM Dad was usually asleep. So the only time we really had any one-on-one time was just about – never.

Sure I felt deprived of my Dad’s attention, but wasn’t this normal? After all, this is what I was being taught, so it couldn’t be wrong. I wasn’t a very good athlete but I was on my high school’s football team. Let me tell you how many practices and games my father attended; if my dwindling memory serves me, one. The only time I ever got to be with him alone was when I went to work with him. I relished those times, because I not only got to spend time with him, but with my grandfather and his two brothers. What stories they could tell.

And so I became my father. I worked hard believing I was doing the right things for my wife and daughters. I even had my office in my house so after dinner I could retreat there to do more “important” work. And I missed so very much. Even as I write this I grieve for my children, growing up with a father who was hardly there for them. Who missed so many parent-teacher nights, recitals and important moments that can never be reclaimed.

And so, let me offer some advice to those of you raising children today. And I’d like to do it with the words to one of my favorite songs from Fiddler on the Roof; Sunrise-Sunset. “Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play? I don’t remember growing older, when did they? Sunrise sunset, Sunrise sunset, swiftly flow the years, one season following another laden with happiness and tears!”

May you never have to die with a single regret.

With Love,



One Response to “No Regrets – Part Two”

  1. robertterson at 5:01 PM #

    Excellent piece of writing, Michael. Alas, it’s even worse when you have to get on airplanes to go to work–I speak from decades of experience. I missed a lot, which is why I drop whatever I’m doing in my retirement career to spend time with my children and grandchildren. When they’re available, that is. Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” comes to mind.

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