KL Malaysia - Photo Kyle Lockwood
By Bronnie Ware
For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn't work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.
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Roman Forum - Photo Kyle Lockwood
'I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble,' Caesar Augustus apparently boasted. If so, he wasn’t the only person to dismiss the humble brick. They’ve housed us for tens of thousands of years. They are all rather similar – small enough to fit into a human hand, and half as wide as they are long – and they are absolutely everywhere. Why, asks Tim Harford, are bricks still such an important building technology, how has brickmaking changed over the years, and will we ever see a robot bricklayer?
Melbourne Jacaranda - Photo Kyle Lockwood
You would think having a job in the architecture field would mean that you have a creative outlet, but unfortunately unless you’re really high-up in a firm that’s not really the case, although I do enjoy my role a lot, my workday is filled with answering requests for information from building sites, and looking through schedules and plans drawn by others, and since the design has already been done earlier by my senior colleagues. I have very little creative input. Once I get over my work-related back injury, I plan to make this my creative outlet, to be honest I’m not much of a social media person, so this blog is just something creative that I feel compelled to do occasionally.
Typed by Siri.
Kyle Lockwood - Photo Fairfax.
The road to Kyle Lockwood's grandma's house is lined with flagpoles. There's a Merry Christmas flag, a Welsh Dragon, a skull and crossbones and a Union Jack. Where once flew Red Peaks, two poles stand empty.
There must be more flagstaffs per person in Wellington's Breaker Bay than almost anywhere in the country. Where else, then, would the designer of New Zealand's alternative ensign have spent a good part of his childhood?
At Kathy Lockwood's house overlooking Cook Strait, her grandson's black and blue referendum-winner flickers in the southerly breeze.
Kathy won't lie though - she likes the red one better.
Lockwood himself won't reveal which of his two final-five designs he ranked first. He's an old-fashioned kind of guy, he says. Not the kind to vote and tell.
Even grandma doesn't know.
It's been a hell of a year for the 38-year-old Melbourne-based architectural designer, since two of his fern and stars designs were selected as finalists in September, for the first stage of the flag referendum. What's lesser known is that the good news actually started months earlier, in May, when the government announced a return to 10-year passports.
Lockwood had spearheaded that campaign, organising a petition of almost 16,000 signatures.
Does he have the Prime Minister on speed dial, then? Never met him, never spoken to him directly, Lockwood clarifies.
Back home for Christmas with the family, the quiet achiever has been thrust suddenly into the national media spotlight. At breakfast at a Wellington cafe there was staring and whispering. He fidgets and is uncomfortable discussing family.
It is, he admits, all a bit odd.
He's a fast learner, though. Jaded from waking at 4am for a breakfast television interview he still remembered a lint roller, to remove the caramel hair from Kathy's papillon dog that's now coating his suit jacket.
Underwater hockey, rather than the mighty All Blacks, got Lockwood hooked on the silver fern. His Dad represented New Zealand, sporting the frond on his tracksuit.
His parents separated when he was small so Lockwood split his time between mother Barbara, father Simon and Kathy. On holidays, he would draw ships and planes as they passed Kathy's window.
He was good at tech drawing and topped woodwork at Rongotai College, but drifted after school.
A short army stint cemented his fern affection. He pulls out his beret and touches the gold fern badge that dates back to the Boer War.
"I was actually more proud of that than I was of the flag flying over the parade grounds."
It wasn't until 2000, though, that Lockwood drew the prototype of his winning design. By then he was studying architecture technology at Massey University, after four years' processing building consents for Wellington City Council. The lecturer was discussing attaching flagpoles to buildings and Lockwood doodled a flag to go on top.
"I thought - I don't know if I want to put a Union Jack up there. I just started sketching the silver fern with the Southern Cross. I sketched it and put it away in my books and it sat there for a good three or four years."
While he rejected the Union Jack, he's not a Republican.
He also has a personal connection to the existing flag - Kathy and his late grandfather Walter served under it. Both Brits, the couple met in the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Walter had also fought under the British flag, but to Lockwood's surprise he still favoured his grandson's Union Jack-free replacement.
"Initially I was quite scared as to what his reaction might be, because he was a sergeant in the RAF in the jungles of Burma. But he took one look at it and said 'That's it' in his very broad Yorkshire accent."
Lockwood dredged the design out again in 2004, for a Hutt News flag competition. His ensign won and got on Campbell Live and momentum has built ever since.
Lockwood had just got off the train from work when he heard his flag had won the referendum run-off. He was speechless. Kathy cried. He celebrated with bubbly but the rest is a blur.
He reckons the race against the existing flag will be close, as Kiwis see them flying together and decide what better represents them in the 21st Century. His dream is to see his flag run up the pole at the Olympics.
It hasn't all been dreamy, though. There have been critics aplenty, of the process and outcome. Lockwood avoids social media.
To those who ask why we should accept a badge of identity designed by someone who doesn't live here, he says he's still a Kiwi through and through.
He moved to Melbourne about seven years ago to work at Fender Katsalidis Architects, who design sustainable, modular commercial and residential buildings.
He still has New Zealand citizenship, but hasn't yet got that 10-year passport.
Lockwood thinks the process was sound and the public made a good decision.
"Well you would, wouldn't you," Kathy laughs.
- Fairfax 19 December 2015