Al's Axiom #4: The saddest of all words spoken by the dying is: “I wish I had tried…”

I ONCE HAD A VISION. No, not the biblical kind, but something my imagination does from time to time. A mental movie played in my brain . . .

I opened the door to my bedroom. Everything was just as it was when last I left. The old, worn dresser stood near the same wall it always had. The bed sat opposite it, its forest green and maple headboard drew the eye of anyone who entered. The bed, however, was different. It was occupied by an old, white-haired man. His skin draped a nearly skeletal face. His eyes were closed.

The man rested on his back, his head deep in an indentation in the pillow. The only movement he offered was the slow, shallow rising and falling of his chest. He drew air over chapped lips. It was clear he was in his last days, maybe his last moments.

I stepped to his side. What was this old man doing in my bed. His face had a familiarity about it. Something about the eyebrows; something about the mouth; something about the snow-white beard that hung as limp to his face as his skin hung to his skull.

I looked away for a moment, half expecting to see Death standing at the foot of the bed, his scythe poised and ready to take its prize. But he wasn’t there. The old man and I were the only people present.

The old guy moved his lips, struggling to say something. He clinched his closed eyes as if the effort required the last of his strength. Clearly he had something on his mind.

I leaned close and placed my ear near his mouth. At first I heard nothing but labored breathing and the occasional puff of breath. Then words:

“I wish . . . I wish I tried . . .”

Then he was gone. 

His last words were words of regret, words or remorse for something never tried, for something he deemed too difficult or too impossible. Now, with his days of opportunity gone, he could no longer dream of what might be, but only of what might have been.

I straightened and looked at the old gent’s face, his skin now a death mask. That’s when I realized something that should have been obvious: his face was my face.

What had the old man wished he had tried. Since he was me and I him, I should know. There were several things I wanted to attempt, several projects I longed to do but never started. I could only see failure in the effort. If I didn’t change my thinking, I would become the old man who wished he had tried.

Al’s Axiom #4: The saddest words spoken by the dying are: “I wish I had tried…”

What do you wish you had tried. Regret may follow failure, but the most painful regret follows the decisionto never try.