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'Death is the last taboo'

Living a life without regret might be difficult, but leaving your life with no regrets is a must, says the Rev. Forrest Church, who died on Sept. 24, 2009 after a years-long battle with cancer.

"When you look back, do you have regrets or don't you? Because if you have regrets then you can't occupy the present. You are trapped by the past," Church tells interviewer Carl Lehmann-Haupt. "You lose the opportunity of seizing the day and making your last days redemptible."

Church admits to not living a perfect live, everyone has their foibles, he says, but forgiving yourself is key to the death process.

"Everyone of us does things we shouldn't have done and fails to do the things that they should be doing. The issue is what do you do with those things? Do you let those dominate those reflections or do you put them in perspective? What you need to do, I think, is you need to come to some kind of a reckoning with those. Ideally you come to a reckoning before you get the doctor telling you that you [have] six months or a year to live. You take care of unfinished business."

As the three-decade leader of the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York, Church preached his mantra of giving forgiveness now, not later. "If we wait to long we may not have time to do them … we may spend the last three, four, five months of our lives under a shadow of regret. … So anything you can do to get out from under that cloud of regret will make you present for others and present for yourself, and present for God, during those last weeks, or months."

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