Death bed regrets revisited: 2015

Four years ago, I responded to a list of the most frequent death bed regrets of the dying by indicating that I didn’t think any of them would be mine.


Then I listed what I thought would be my most likely death bed regrets.

At the time, they were:

  1. I did not travel enough.
  2. I never pole vaulted again after high school.
  3. I did not spend enough time with Clara.
  4. I did not get into enough fist fights.
  5. I started publishing novels too late in life and did not have a chance to tell all my stories.

Two years ago, I revisited this list and decided that the desire for fist fights was probably not wise. Research shows that people get seriously injured and even killed with disturbing regularity due to punches in the head.  

Other than the desire to punch someone, the list held up well.

Two years later, I revisit the list again to determine if any changes need to be made.

1. I did not travel enough.

Still a problem. I still haven’t traveled enough. I was recently asked to spend a week in Brazil this summer, teaching storytelling to high school students, and I spent a few days in Indiana last year, but I’m not exactly piling up the miles. The kids are at a tough age to travel, too, and while Elysha is still home with the kids, the funds for travel are limited. But my hope is that when Elysha returns to work and Charlie is a little older, we can begin to make this happen.

2. I never pole vaulted again after high school.

I actually have an idea for a book that would have me pole vaulting again for a season. My agent loves the idea (it might be her favorite of my many book ideas), and I love it, too, so this is a distinct possibility.

3. I did not spend enough time with Clara and Charlie.

I’ve added Charlie to the regret now, but I’ve reached two conclusions about this regret:

Regardless of how much time I spend with my kids, it will never be enough.

Compared to many parents I know, I actually spend a great deal of time with my kids. My teacher schedule allows me to spend many, many days with my kids while most are working, and I spend almost every minute from the time I get home until the time I tuck my kids in bed in their company. So I’m doing okay, I think, but will also never really think so.


4. I started publishing novels too late in life and did not have a chance to tell all my stories.

I can certainly try to write faster, and I am, but there’s no way to recapture lost time. Perhaps there will be a day when I want to retire from teaching and can afford to write fulltime. That may help.

And now for an addition to my list:

5. I didn’t spend enough time outdoors.

As a kid, I spent the vast majority of my childhood outside, and I also spent hundreds of days and nights camping. But it’s been years since I’ve slept under the stars, and even longer since I have gone fishing or canoeing or rock climbing or all of the other things that I loved and still love. I don’t swim often enough. I don’t play basketball enough. I don’t go hiking often enough. Golf brings me outdoors quite a bit, but that’s about it. I’m hoping that my children will find a love for the outdoors like I had as a child, and together, I can find a way to avoid this regret. 

There was a dead man in our hotel room.

Slate asks:

What protocol does a hotel follow when a guest is found dead?

Turns out I have a little bit of experience with this question.

When I was 23 years-old, my friend and I went on vacation to Myrtle Beach, South Caroline and Orlando, Florida. We drove south by car, stopping in Myrtle Beach for three days before proceeding to Orlando and Universal Studios. We were scheduled to stay in Florida for four days, but after two, we decided to head north and spend our last two days back at Myrtle Beach.

We liked it much better.

We drove all night from Florida to South Carolina and spent the morning sleeping on the beach. With our funds running low, we searched for a cheap room and found one over a liquor store less than a mile from the ocean. When the liquor store owner opened the door to the room, we saw the chalk outline of a person in the carpet in the center of the room.


“Haven’t had time to shampoo the rug,” the man said. “But he’s long gone.”

Since police don’t normally draw chalk outlines around heart attack or stroke victims, we assumed that the man had died via nefarious means.

Turns out that the chalk outline wasn’t so bad. The enormous cockroach that we found in the bathroom was far more terrifying.

I worry that George R.R. Martin will die before finishing his Song of Fire and Ice series, and yes, that’s not a nice thing to think.

George R.R. Martin is the author of the popular Song of Fire and Ice series which you may know better as Game of Thrones.


He’s currently writing the sixth of that was originally going to be seven books in the series, though he recently hinted that there may be an eighth.

Martin is 65 years-old. He’s not exactly the picture of health.

It took him six years to write the most recent book in the series, A Dance with Dragons, and it has taken him 15 years to write the five books written so far.

At this pace, he will complete the final two books by the time he is 72 years-old, and if there really is an eighth book planned, he will be close to 80 when he finally wraps the series.

For these reasons, I have decided to wait to read the books, fearing his demise before the series is complete.

This is not an entirely unfounded position. Stephen King’s Dark Tower series (which you should all read immediately) was nearly cut short when King was hit by a van and nearly killed in 1999 with three books to go.

When I first heard about the accident, my first thoughts went to The Dark Tower’s Roland and his ka-tet. As saddened as I was to hear about King’s death (it was originally announced that King had died in the accident), I was equally distraught over the idea that Roland’s journey to The Dark Tower would never be realized.  

Perhaps fearful that he may never finish the series if he didn’t work quickly,  King promptly completed the final three books in the series  in 2004 (publishing one in 2003 and two in 2004).

Then he added a book for good measure in 2012.


So yes, I worry about Martin’s ability to complete his masterpiece. He’s not a young man, and he seems to require about five years to finish a book. I was nearly left hanging in the midst of a masterpiece once before. I don’t want that to happen again.

Apparently I am not alone in this sentiment. Others have expressed this concern openly and often. Martin recently addressed the many people who have expressed concerns over his ability to complete the series before his demise:

“I find that question pretty offensive, when people start speculating about my death and my health. So f**k you to those people.”

He added a middle finger for good measure.

I deserve the rebuke. He’s right. It’s not exactly polite to speculate about an author’s longevity. If I were him, I’d be angry, too.

But when you want to stick it to someone like me, there are four words even more satisfying than simple vulgarity:

“I told you so.”

Finish the books, George. Make me look like a fool for ever doubting you.