By LYNN FRANCIS, MA, MS
—The death of a colleague (or family member or friend) is an invitation for self-reflection and contemplation about our own being and place in the world. It is a reminder of our own mortality. Along with the myriad of feelings that surface for weeks and months down the road, death is an inevitability that we all face. We all know this intellectually, but emotion and spirituality bring a different kind of perception and poignancy.
If you are reading this, you are still alive. You are still on your journey. Perhaps we can learn something from those who went before and who offered some of their own reflections before passing. Below are the top five regrets of the dying, according to the Huffington Post and the Guardian.
Longtime ESL teacher, life coach, and marriage family therapist Lynn Francis is interested in the inner life of the teacher. She writes, “Because the tools of our trade—methods, techniques, theories, activities—are so well covered at workshops, in-services, and conferences, I felt there was a need to address other aspects of the teacher that are not covered.”
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
A lot of what we spend our energies on is a social construct or a distraction. So what is real for you? How do you want to be spending your time and your energy? What do you value highly? These are not static questions. They change with time, age, and experience. And, ultimately, there is only now to be asking them.
Perhaps there is a time for working hard and a time for finding balance. Different people have differing views about “working hard.” What is yours?
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Personally, this has been a challenge for me through the years. But now having trusted others to express my feelings is one of my greatest joys. As a therapist, I also see how difficult the emotional body is to understand, accept, and learn to express in a safe, healthy, and fulfilling way. How and to whom do you express your feelings?
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
The term friends seems to be changing and perhaps is more on a continuum. Facebook “friends” are a way to know people in a certain way. Close friends are there no matter what and there is everything in between. Do you stay in touch with the friends who matter to you?
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
I am not sure that I always knew what a choice this can be at times. What I am learning is the empowerment of responsibility for my own happiness. Many “things out there” aren’t really what stress us (not to negate those out of our control that do). It is our reaction, our perception, our past conditioning that can be skillfully reckoned with and changed to live with greater joy and happiness from the inside out.
How do we balance the “have to’s” and the “want to’s”? How do we find a surrender to what is while at the same time setting intentions and moving forward? How do we find discernment about what is important and what isn’t? Perhaps the truth lies in the paradox of seeming opposites.
To keep renewing a sense of purpose, freshness, creativity, and aliveness is a formidable quest as an individual and educator. It is something I strive for through self-care, continual learning, and curiosity about myself and others and serving in ways that I feel drawn to serve as an educator and as a marriage family therapist. It is an ongoing pursuit.
In sum, death affects us deeply. It is not completely separate from our professional life but deeply integrated into it. May you embrace and cherish the rest of your journey. May your departed colleagues, family members, and friends rest in peace.
Lynn Francis is a part-time instructor for San Diego Community College Continuing Education. She has been a teacher trainer for more than 30 years. She also has a private practice as a life coach and licensed marriage family therapist. She especially enjoys working with teachers and welcomes readers’ questions or ideas for topics for Inner News. Readers can reach her at lcfranci@sdccdedu.
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