A Life Without Regrets

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My dad, Arnold Anderson, in flight school, 1942

Life is no brief candle to me.
It is a sort of splendid torch
which I have got a hold of for the moment,
and I want to make it burn
as brightly as possible
before handing it on to future generations.
-George Bernard Shaw

These last months since September 11, 2001, have been a riveting time personally, nationally, and globally. A time of reflection, remembering what is most important, and taking action. The possibility of a great awakening is at hand. What are the most important changes you want to make in your life so that you live a life without regrets?

Very often, when people awaken and grow, we get very excited about the future and the possibilities of what can happen. And very often, when people awaken and grow, we turn around, look at our past, and make it wrong, thinking that we should have somehow known “it” all along. We blame ourselves harshly for not growing sooner, and even worse, we may start blaming others—partners, friends, parents, the culture, you name it—for what happened in our past.

Actualizing ourselves to our highest and best selves, growing, is an ancient and well-recorded desire for humankind throughout history. There have been innumerable voices in every culture calling brothers and sisters to awaken to our goodness, to take peaceful and thoughtful action, to serve humankind, to make the world a joyous, safe, and compassionate place, and to reverently take care of the earth. Sometimes we listen, become inspired, and change. Sometimes we gradually stop, and like falling asleep, we don’t realize when it happens.

Remember the first Earth Day? Did Earth Day awaken a part of you that deeply cares for our earth? Did you get really excited about the possibility of everyone pulling together to recycle and create great change? Have you judged people and cultures that aren’t doing it the “right way”? Remember September 11, 2001? Are you still as aware of what’s most important to you, or have you started to fall back into old habits?

If we make our past wrong when we experience insight and growth, or if, when the natural process of falling asleep occurs, we judge ourselves as wrong, our faith in ourselves erodes slowly and surely. To live a life without regrets, we must stay committed to valuing our past, our heritage. It has taken all of our past to create this moment and what comes next—every hurt, every tear, and every bit of laughter and love. When we don’t listen to and honor our past experiences, we simply recreate them over and over again, blocking the road to our future.

There have been many awakening moments in my life: breast cancer, recreating my marriage to Kyle, starting Wings, the death of my son Matthew, September 11, and most recently the death of my father, Arnold T. Anderson. We celebrated his life on November 3, 2001. One of my great realizations while I was there with my mom and family was that I participated in my dad’s life the best way I knew and I have only sweet and poignant memories, no regrets.

All of your life and mine is essential and priceless. To stay fully committed, we must value all of it. When you awaken and see life anew, no matter what the occasion or what it took to wake you up, savor the learning, celebrate, and do it, be it, say it now! Live a life without regrets.

This is what I wrote for my dad’s memorial service:


I am forever blessed that Arnold T. Anderson is my father. A true father, unconditionally loving mentor, teacher, guiding light, guardian, and friend—Dad was all of these things and more to me, to my brother, Roger, and sister, Carolyn.

My dad was often shy, never calling attention to himself, a man of dignity and honor. People sought him out, relaxing in the full acceptance and attention he gave to everyone.

My dad laughed easily and never at anyone’s expense.

He delighted in the unexpected and the curious, seeking to understand what life offered him— cultures of the world, how any “thing” worked, where the fish were, the perfect move in a dance step, the subtle hint of an herb in a sauce—all as he lovingly watched over his family.

My dad listened with the eagerness and curiosity of a child, seeking the truth instead of the easy or expected answer. Dad was both a teacher and a learner.

My dad believed that we are here to fulfill our heart’s deepest longings, to do the best we can do in every moment and be happy doing it. And by his example, we learned this lesson.

My dad held his word as his bond. He simplified his life by only doing what was most important to him. He was a simple man of great depth.

My dad loved to create, to use his imagination in every aspect of his life: paintings, systems, cooking, designing their homes, singing—what a voice!

My dad loved my mom. By watching them together, from my earliest years until these last several years, I learned what true love means—unconditional and real, passionate, ever present, patient, and kind. Mom’s courageous caring for dad was a reflection of the love they shared.

I want to share a view expressed by Bert Hellinger in his book Acknowledging What Is:

I belong to life, or to a force that brings me into life and holds me, and then lets me drop out again. This way of seeing things seems to me to be much closer to the reality. One who experiences himself or herself as part of a greater whole experiences a supportive energy, although it’s an energy that can also bring suffering. It’s not our happiness that makes the world go round. It’s something quite different; it calls us into its service and we have to yield to it. At the end of our time, we drop out of life back into something we know nothing about.

We don’t just suddenly appear out of nowhere. The life we receive through our parents is embed- ded in something greater. Something flows together in our parents and passes life on to us. We are already present in some sense, or we couldn’t become. When we die, we’re not gone, although we’re not visible to the living any longer. But vanish? How can we vanish?

Being, the depth behind everything, is beyond life. Compared with being, life is small and temporary.

I am grateful to you, Dad, for sharing life with me. Yes, Dad, you are dead…and I miss you. We will live a bit longer, and then we will come too.

Namasté.

Reflections:

1. Describe several times in your life when you “woke up” and became excited about setting a new course of action.

2. Name the insights you are still excited about and why.

3. Name the insights to which you have “fallen asleep” and the impact on your life.

4. Now what are the most important changes you want to make in your life so that you live a life without regrets?

With love and gratitude,
Kris King

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