• Aging Well Denver

In My Eleventh Hour: I Wish I'd Had More Courage

Updated: Jun 20, 2018

By Sandra Ford Walston | Denver Hospice Volunteer

Working as a hospice volunteer for seven years, I've witnessed a variety of outcomes during a patients final moments, commonly referred to as "the eleventh hour." During this time, people process their final defining moment: dying. This is the moment that requires the most courage - the surrender and the acceptance of one's life.

With each of my volunteer experiences, I was challenged to reflect on my own personal journey. Deliberating over past mistakes, contemplating misgivings, and examining whether I was living in my true self, today. I know that courage lives in my true self and in coming to terms with my eventual demise. I begin to ask myself, how much heartfelt courage will I be able to summon to peacefully embrace my own eleventh hour?

Embracing Courage

The word courage comes from the French word "corage" meaning "heart and spirit". Embracing this definition, courage is really about acting from our heart and spirit, from the center of our being. Tapping into our courage enables us to stand in our own true selves. In this way, we design not only a good life, but a good death.

During my year as an eleventh-hour hospice volunteer, I have observed that patients often have not summoned the courage to do something they really wanted to do in life, or they sadly didn't make the time to just "be" instead of being in a constant state of doing. These observations correlated with my over 20 years of research on recognizing and interpreting courageous behaviors. Several reoccurring tenets surfaced that confirmed, "I wish I'd had more courage..."

Three Tenets are featured below:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to realize how important it was to stay in touch with loved ones.

Most of us do not make conscious choices about how we are going to spend our lives. Rushing through life, we rarely detect that complacency filled with excuses and justifications seep into our spirits and drain our precious reservoir of courage. Once our time to die has come, the opportunity to live more fully has closed - it's too late to change the storyline.

2. I wish I'd had the courage to live my life expressing more of my true self, not the life where I sometimes sold my soul to accommodate others.

Before people reach the eleventh hour, the patient tends to reflect on their journey and often express remorse to loved ones such as "I wish I'd spent more time with my kids." "I wish I'd not been so afraid to travel." I wish I'd finished college." or "Sorry I never told you..."

We must ask ourselves, am I living in my true self? When my time comes to pass, will I be filled with misgivings or happiness? Recognizing misgivings, the task then is to cultivate courage and trust that going for it is better than dying without it.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to dispell my fears and listen more closely to listen to the promptings of my heart and spirit.

Underlying all fears is the primitive and intuitive fear of death itself. Learning to stay courage- centered in the present may not banish fear or the self- blame it spawns, but it will at least begin to diminish the tendencies that keep us stuck in fear. Fear blocks and paralyzes the heart and ultimately, fear blocks courage.

When human beings claim their courage, they begin to experience the truth that heart and spirit transcend fear. This mirror recognition dissolves fear, allowing love to fill our hearts. This is the experience of "dying to self."

About the Author

Global speaker Sandra Ford Walston is known as "The Courage Expert." For over 20 years she has been a human potential specialist who studies courage. She is a certified coach and certified in enneagram and MBTI. The author of three books, Sandra is a trailblazer in the field of feminine courage, everyday courage, and non-gender courageous leadership. For more of her insights visit her website and sign up for her free monthly courage newsletter. Sandra has been a volunteer for The Denver Hospice for the past 7 years and currently enjoys being an eleventh-hour hospice volunteer.

Learn more about volunteering at the Denver hospice. Call Kim White, volunteer manager at (303) 398-6248 or email kwhite@care4denver.org.