I have always loathed the notion of the bucket list – I’ve written this before. All these things you’re supposed to do before you die, to feel like you’ve truly lived. It’s my guess the only people who say “live like there’s no tomorrow” are too shallow to know what that means. It’s trite. It’s justification for being wild and self-centered. By linking these impulses to our mortality they are supposedly elevated to what some think of as “really living,” but in reality linking them to death just creates a kind of consumer urgency. It co-ops the fear of “there isn’t enough time” and translates it in our minds as “let’s go shopping!” (re: skydiving, traveling, drinking, gambling, etc.). It confuses panic with joie de vivre. It’s a lie.
Jay and I have spent nearly 4 years balancing the hopeful with the pragmatic. This phase we’re in now is different only in that the finish line is closer than it’s ever been before (though not in sight). We have an amazing group of friends who are helping us with simple things like meals, keeping Food Rescue afloat, gardening and animal care. We have people who can think for us (even parent for us!) when our minds are too addled by anxiety, or congested with existential meditations. We have folks who aren’t afraid to walk with us as we move forward towards the finish line. Instead they visit, share meals, talk about their lives – continue the friendship. They are nervous but willing to learn about their own mortality simply by staying beside us. These are people with perspective and who know joie de vivre when they see it. I’d be surprised if there was a single bucket list between them.
If it were my time I would not grieve that I had never been skydiving or seen the northern lights. I would sleep-in with my head on Jay’s shoulder, have coffee in bed and work on crossword puzzles with him. I’d wrap my arms around Stella, kiss the top of her head and inhale her scent. I’d sit in the garden with my face towards the sun and listen. I’d savor the love in my life and gather my courage to greet death, hopefully without an ounce of urgency or regret. I do these things every day.
This is what I’ve learned with Jay, through the love of life we share: You don’t need a list for what you already have.