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Regrets, I've had a few

He sang it many years ago, but we still hear Frank Sinatra singing "My Way" these days. One line in that song popped into my mind today -- "Regrets, I've had a few, but then again too few to mention." Anybody who doesn't have a few regrets is guilty either of never reflecting or of having an ego that admits to no faults.

Although regrets should not become heavy burdens that can never be laid down, some taste more bitter than others. The ones most bitter to me are the failure to tell someone dear or special, now gone, how dear or special they really were. We say wonderful things about the dead -- after they're dead -- that we don't think of saying before it's too late. There is no remedy for a regret like that.

I had a brilliant college professor -- a bachelor who labored hours over the papers of his students. He had comments, criticisms, compliments and suggestions for every paragraph. It was impossible to be in his classes without being rewarded and inspired. After I left, I wrote to him a time or two, but I never expressed my deep gratitude and admiration. Then one day, I read that he had suddenly died, quite young, about six months earlier. I felt cheated that I'd never really told him what an impact he'd made on my life and never had a chance to say goodbye. But I'd had years to say those things and didn't. Too late. Regrets.

Of course the professor wasn't the only person I've admired. We've all had husbands or wives, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, sweethearts and co-workers. Some are still alive. It's not too late for them. No regrets yet.

I had the opportunity to compliment a most pleasant and friendly clerk the other day. But I didn't think about it until I was out in the parking lot. A small opportunity missed, a small regret.

DeGrallet summarized the idea perfectly over 150 years ago: "I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to a fellow creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."

We all say hurtful things once in awhile. I know that because I'm good at it. We can apologize all we want, but the hurt remains. Impatience, "smart" comments, quick thoughtless responses, careless observations -- all hurtful, all regrets.

I regret wasted hours, wasted days, wasted weeks -- they add up to wasted years. Ninety five percent of what's on television and 90 percent of what's on the radio is a waste of time and I've done my share. Hours and days without a purpose are lost. If you waste money you may get more, but not time. Ben Franklin said it very well: "Do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of."

The longer we live, the more regrets we have. Who can fail to regret the friends we lost track of, the times we didn't say thanks, the good books we haven't read, the bad ones we have read, the times we settled for "good enough," the calls we didn't make, bad habits, indifference, bad attitude, opportunities neglected or fumbled, love lost. Some regrets we can share, some are too private and too painful (or too shameful).

The past may be past, but there is always tomorrow (we hope) and the opportunity for turning over a new leaf.