In The End We Only Regret The Chances We Did’t Take
“They’ll say you are bad
or perhaps you are mad
or at least you
should stay undercover.
Your mind must be bare
if you would dare
to think you can love
more than one lover.”
“It’s better to burn out than to fade away.”
“At the end of the day, it isn’t where I came from. Maybe home is somewhere I’m going and never have been before.”
“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.”
“You get use to someone—start to like them, even—and they leave. In the end, everyone leaves.”
“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.”
“Why should I fear death?
If I am, then death is not.
If Death is, then I am not.
Why should I fear that which can only exist when I do not?
Long time men lay oppressed with slavish fear.
Religious tyranny did domineer.
At length the mighty one of Greece
Began to assent the liberty of man.”
“From too much love of living
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.
Then star nor sun shall waken,
Nor any change of light:
Nor sound of waters shaken,
Nor any sound or sight:
Nor wintry leaves nor vernal,
Nor days nor things diurnal;
Only the sleep eternal
In an eternal night.”
“The great miraculous bell of translucent ice is suspended in mid-air.
It rings to announce endings and beginnings. And it rings because there is fresh promise and wonder in the skies.
Its clear tones resound in the placid silence of the winter day, and echo long into the silver-blue serenity of night.
The bell can only be seen at the turning of the year, when the days wind down into nothing, and get ready to march out again.
When you hear the bell, you feel a tug at your heart.
It is your immortal inspiration.”
“Death isn’t the end, it’s the beginning.”
At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.
“I am constantly mystified by what John ends up remembering… I just don’t understand why he’s able to hang on to information like that, while so many other more important memories evaporate.
Then again, I suppose so much of what stays with us is often insignificant. The memories we take to the ends of our lives have no real rhyme or reason, especially when you think of the endless things that you do over the course of a day, a week, a month, a year, a lifetime. All the cups of coffee, hand-washings, changes of clothes, lunches, goings to the bathroom, headaches, naps, walks to school, trips to the grocery store, conversations about the weather—all the things so unimportant they should be immediately forgotten.
Yet they aren’t. I often think of the Chinese red bathrobe I had when I was twenty-seven years old; the sound of our first cat Charlie’s feet on the linoleum of our old house; the hot rarefied air around aluminum pot the moment before the kernels of popcorn burst open. I think of these things as often as I think about getting married or giving birth or the end of the Second World War.
What is truly amazing is that before you know it, sixty years go by and you can remember maybe eight or nine important events, along with a thousand meaningless ones. How can that be?
You want to think there’s a pattern to it all because it makes you feel better, gives you some sense of a reason why we’re here, but there really isn’t any. People look for God in these patterns, these reasons, but only because they don’t know where else to look.
Things happen to us: some of it important, most of it not, and a little of it stays with us till the end. What stays after that? I’ll be damned if I know.