Things Left Undone


When I was a choirboy at St. Paul’s Church in Dedham, Massachusetts, after we had marched out of the church, we stood there by the door while the Reverend Rudy Rowell pronounced what I guess they call the benediction.

I can still hear his stentorian tones: “For we have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us, etc. etc.”

Without doubt I have done numerous things which I ought not to have done and I hope I have learned all I could from these mistakes. But after you’ve learnt what you can, you have to move along.

“Done’s done,” said my friend Roger Patt one day, and it was as if he had snapped his fingers and cleared up a lot of stuff for me. “Done’s done.”

Undone — now that’s something else again.

This weekend I had a wonderful dinner with some friends from college, but they were so… successful, and so… happily married. They were retiring from distinguished careers and I am still trying to ascend the first few rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy.

It prompted a few reflections about my life, which has been wonderful, but which may not have been all that it could have been in terms of accomplishments.

And for all you young people out there, let me offer this insight: While I regret doing those things which I ought not to have done, that’s over and done with.

The greater, open-ended regret is having left undone those things which I ought to have done. Those undone things stick with you. I’m not exactly sure what they are, and it is a bit late, but I think I just might get started on them now.