Fly fish in New Zealand. Kayak in the San Juan Islands. Eat lunch in Istanbul. I have a list of things that I want to do — one day.
The Jack Nicholson – Morgan Freeman movie, The Bucket List was about two men with terminal cancer nearing the end of their days. They escaped their hospital rooms so they could finally pursue things they had delayed their whole lives.
Their list had things they wanted to die before they “kicked the bucket.” The term made its way into our vernacular and even today I hear people about “Putting the things on my bucket list.”
The problem with bucket lists is that the deadline is death – and that’s an uncertainty. Do you really know how long you have?
The big question
I come from a long line of Norwegians on one side and Jewish Poles on the other. Both sides are hardy with low blood pressure, clean living and good teeth. Most of my relatives lived well into their 90’s. But that’s no guarantee. I could pass away in dozens of different dramatic deaths (I’ll tell you about a few of my close calls sometime) or through a variety of maladies.
But this human flesh is vulnerable and ultimately weak. I had a friend cut some carpet and the knife broke the skin on his leg and he ended up dying of a flesh-eating bacteria that was in the carpet. I had another friend simply not wake up one morning – no explanation.
On the other hand, I had a close friend who’s mother came close to death at least a half dozen times, only to fight back for another six months of good living. You never know.
Although I’ve known Rick Dawson for a decade know, I’ve never met him. However we’ve enjoyed a certain kinship though sharing of writings and notes. He loves CCM and is reflective about life in ways I share. He’s in recovery, a guitar playing grandpa, and a lover of God. Rick is a brilliant writer because he’s simply honest. His Planned Peasanthood blog is a constant source of joy and insight.
RIck is a cancer survivor – but now it’s back, picking off body parts at will.
The “C” word is devastating to most any of us, but to someone who’s beat the dragon back for so long, to hear that it’s returned can be crushing. The fight is brutal and once it’s sulked away, one would think it’s forgotten about you.
A knock on the door, and it’s back, this time to stay.
It’s a diagnosis, not a destination
Rick wrote this upon hearing his diagnosis and being told that the end is likely near. “Cancer is a diagnosis, not a destination.” Those are words I’ll never forget.
Thus, the problem with Bucket Lists. We think that to really experience things, we have to grasp everything this planet has to offer. So we eat to excess, slip into sensuality, travel without satisfaction, and buy with no regard. We act as if this is everything. We mark them off, one by one. But in the end, all we have is an empty list – and an empty heart.
C.S. Lewis in the Weight Of Glory put it best. “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
To Rick—and every other person facing bad news—I want you to stick around. I want to add you to my bucket list to spend just one more day, have one more conversation, make one more memory. But my desire is selfish. I’m keeping you from the last item on your list — an audience with the creator.
Show me how to walk toward the light. No shadows. No pain. No fear. No deceit. No shame. No curse. No grief. No sadness.
And, no need for a bucket list.
Show me the way, friend.