I assume you’ve heard of a bucket list? You know, a list of things you’d like to do before you die? Before you ‘kick the bucket’?
“I have. Don’t always remember it being called that though. I mean, maybe it was and I just don’t recall. I seem to remember it being referred to another way and then I don’t know how the whole bucket list popularity thing came about.”
“Could it be from the movie by the same name? The one with Morgan Freeman? Have you seen it?
“I have seen it. It was a good movie. It was sad. A real tear-jerker. For some reason though I always thought that the idea of the list preceded the movie. Like the movie was based on the growing popularity of bucket lists and not vice versa.”
So you could say it was a case of which came first, the movie or the list?
“Exactly. I mean, I figured they made a movie about bucket lists. Why? I have no idea. What are we talking about again? (laughter)
Bucket lists. Things we’d like to do before we die. Do you have one? A list that is?
“I actually do. I never really called it a bucket list until after I saw that movie, so maybe that’s our answer, but yes I have a list.
Is it an actual list that is written down on paper?
“It is. I started keeping a journal a while back and inside of the journal, on the back page, I would write things that I discovered or places I’d see, that I would like to do or see before I die. But I never really thought of the “before I die” part until later.”
How were you looking at it? When were you hoping to achieve these things?
“I think I looked at them more as life goals. Just things that interested me that I didn’t want to just forget about, so I would write them down in the hopes that someday I would get to select things from the list to do, things to work towards achieving. No time frame or pressure involved. No thoughts of jamming it all in before the last tick of the clock.”
And that has changed for you now? Now your list has gone from life’s goals to things to do before I die?
“Essentially, yes. I’ve come to realize that life is short in the grand scheme of things. I never really understood when people would say ‘life is short’. I mean, I’m 40 and I feel 40. I feel as though I have been alive 40 years. I don’t feel ike they’ve gone by in a flash, or that the years keep coming faster or any of that stuff. But there are certain events that happen in life that make you realize that, even if you live to be 90, in the grand scheme of things, 90 years is not all that long. And it’s probably not enough time to get all of the things that you’ve ever dreamed of doing done, unless you get started on them!”
And one of those things, those perspective changing events, they happened to you?
“My mom was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer at 61. A year later we lost her. Three weeks after her funeral, my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease at 64. He wound up having a stroke a month after his diagnosis and passed away as well. So in the span of 15 months, my world was blown completely apart. Both of my relatively young and healthy parents were diagnosed with essentially terminal illnesses, and both passed away in an extremely short time span.”
Wow. That must have been an incredibly difficult time. I am so sorry. I can’t imagine how life altering that must have been for you. Could you share what life was like for you in the aftermath of losing both of your parents?
“There’s no way to describe those days really. Because it’s almost like they didn’t exist. It was surreal. It’s like one day you have a family, you have parents, you are whole. Then one day, nothing. A void. A blank space that can never be filled. I can’t really describe the first days after my mom passed because it’s like I didn’t even exist in those days. It’s autopilot. It’s self-preservation. It’s just waking, existing, surviving, and going to sleep. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Until one day you kind of jolt yourself awake and say, okay something has to give here. There has to be a way to deal with this. But at that time when most people are processing that loss and trying to assess how life will even go on, I was getting blown to smithereens with round 2. There are no words to describe it. It was literally like that moment in a boxing match when they slow the footage down for the replay, and it’s going reeeeealy slowly, and you can see the moment the punch makes contact. You see the had snap back and the sweat and blood and whatever else is there just flies everywhere and it’s like, BLAM! That was what that moment felt like.
That paints a very vivid picture. So, after being faced with all of this loss, and feeling lost yourself at what point did you think to start living all of the “bucket list” items?
“After the initial haze wears off and you’re left with the realization that your parents are gone and that you really have no idea how much time you have left on this earth, you start thinking. What can I do? What do I want to do? What can I do to ensure that my time here is memorable, that my parents death means something on a personal level.”
How did you come up with the items on your list?
“Like I mentioned earlier, I didn’t really set out to make an itemized, 1, 2, 3 type of list. I just thought about some things that I had really always thought about doing. I thought about things I always thought would be fun or interesting or cool, things that spoke to me. Things that for whatever reason I never had the time or the money or the motivation to do before, seemed liked imperatives after dealing with everything. So I wrote in my journal all of those things, and anytime I’d see something very interesting or intriguing, I’d decide if it was bucket list worthy or not, and if it was, I’d add it on.”
How many items are on your list? Have you checked some off already?
“I don’t have it right here, but I’d say there’s always at least 10 active things. I mean some get added, some get crossed off when accomplished. So, yes, I have checked some off already. I’d say there were probably 15 undone items at the biggest point. I’d say there’s probably 10 or so on there now, and probably 6 or 7 that have been done. I’d like to not add anymore and see if I can get it to zero, to where I have done every item on my bucket list and can then start Bucket List 2: The Sequel.” (laughter)
How do you feel about sharing the items on your list with us?
“Oh yeah that’s fine. There’s nothing creepy or weird on there really. Let me think. So, Paris is on there. More specifically Jim Morrison’s grave (at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris). Climb to the top of a mountain, any mountain really, completely on my own and by myself. The Louvre. The Sistine Chapel (in Vatican City). Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Jump out of a plane. Learn to ice skate, like really ice skate, like figure skater style. Trace my family history as far back as I can. Run a 5K. Run a 10K. Run a half marathon. Run the Boston Marathon. Eat food that I think is totally disgusting. Teach someone something valuable. Get a tattoo. Dye my hair a crazy color. Camp out in the woods alone overnight. Go rock climbing. Go to grad school. There are more but they’re escaping me at the moment.”
And you’ve accomplished some of these? I have to say that there are a few on your bucket list that are also on mine.
“I got a tattoo. I ran a 5k, a 10k, and a half marathon. I jumped out of a plane. As you can see the hair (her hair is a very lovely pinkish color at the moment). I started doing genealogy to retrace the origins of my family. It’s an ongoing process, so I don’t know if it’s ever considered “done” but I started it. Next spring I am planning a trip to France. That will cross of two. And I hope to get to Italy in that time to cross off another. After that I think it will be on a case by case basis as time and money will allow. Which things do we share on our lists. Have you done them?”
We share a few. I’d also like to go to Père Lachaise and the Sistine Chapel. I have done neither yet, but I have been able to cross a few things off of my short and static bucket list, probably 4 out of 10. I am feeling a little more pressure now to get moving on them. I’m in my 40’s now and I made that list up when I was about 21. I guess I was ahead of my time. Do you feel an increase in pressure at all as you pass 40, to get your items crossed off?
“I don’t put any pressure on myself to get things crossed off. I think it is great to have a list of things you want to do before you die. I think everyone should have one. But I think it should be more of a list of things I want to do while I’m alive. It’s so much more positive. And it doesn’t make you feel like you are in a race with death or illness or time. It’s more like having a desire to do something and not just letting it be a pipe dream but rather actually trying to make it happen, or at least knowing it is possible, because as long as we’re breathing, anything is possible.