Thursday, October 08, 2020

What Do You Want To Do Before You Die

Dwayne flew my best friend, Sarah, down for my
surprise 40th birthday party in the spring of 2010

This fall, I decided to get a Certificate in Thanatology, which is the study of dying, death and bereavement. Assignment 4 in the first course, Introduction to Thanatology, asks me about my Bucket List. 

The term "bucket list" was coined by screenwriter Justin Zackham for his 2007 movie, "The Bucket List". Technically, a bucket list is made when you are told you have x-number of months left to live. But as we do in our culture, we now use the phrase to refer to anything we want to do, even if it's easily accomplished next weekend. 

I don’t have a bucket list. If I did, I would have checked off the one and only item already: Be an author before I die. (Whew!) Of course, I’d like to publish more books but that’s out of my hands, especially now with publishing hitting the pause button because of the pandemic. 

Besides, anything I’d put on a “Things I’d Like to Do Before I Die” require a long commitment of time, money, and/or travel (the last of which is totally kiboshed by the pandemic):

- I’d like to have a pet pig and a couple of pet goats

- I’d like to have a donkey sanctuary

- I’d like Dwayne to see the Pacific Ocean (he went to Peggy’s Cove for the first time in 2019!)

- I’d like to take my mother to Ireland for her 80th birthday (next June – egads!)

- I’d like to live in Italy or Greece

A few years ago, I took horseback riding lessons, which could count as a Bucket List item if I’d been thinking in terms of “end of life”. I was thinking more of fulfilling a lifelong dream from childhood (like getting a pet pig) and overcoming a rather vague fear of large animals – it also became a “Summer of the Horse” column. 

I’d love to have a pair of horses so Dwayne and I could ride around the field but that’s another thing that requires  money. 

I asked my best friend, Sarah, if she has a Bucket List and she doesn’t either. “But we are going on a road trip,” she said but even then, we have no specific place we HAVE to go. I think at this point in our lives – we both turned fifty earlier this year – we’re influenced by one idea: We’re too old for this shit any longer. We're just going to do what we want, say what we want, and go where we want. 
For the assignment, however, I'm counting that as a Bucket List item: Road Trip with Sara.
In the weeks leading up to my milestone birthday in May, I asked myself what do I want to do in the next ten years. What one thing do I really want to accomplish before I turn 60?
And all that came up was: Publish another book (or more books). Being a writer is what I love and it suits the life I have -- and love -- here in rural Nova Scotia. 
Again, this pandemic has affected that work, and those hopes – I can’t do anything about publishing hitting the pause button but I also can’t do anything about the ideas in my head and the urge to share them. 

This assignment reminded me of what I realized back in April, in the lead-up to my 50th birthday: I am satisfied with my life. 

I’ve done a bit of travelling but never had the travel bug; I’ve lived in other places in Canada, rather than staying in the same place my entire life; I’ve been married twice, and lived in the city and the country and in-between so I know where I belong and with whom – and why; I have wonderful friends, some of whom have been in my life for thirty years; my mother lives with me and she’s a healthy, wisecracking, good-natured 79-year-old – I’m grateful and blessed we get along; I have a river on my doorstep and 72 acres behind the house, I get to see the sun rise and set; I have chickens and cats and a dog; and I live in a large house where I have my own writing space that is filled with books.
There is nothing I want or need to do. I am lucky. So when I’m dying, and looking back on my life, I won’t be wishing I’d lived in Italy or swam with dolphins or went on an Alaskan cruise. Sure, those would be great memories, but they aren't necessary to my life well-lived. When I die, I will go in the assurance that I was happy and loved and did work that mattered to others. And I was an author. 

If I’m lucky, my best friend will be there with me, and I’ll die laughing as we remember our epic road trip to wherever. 

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