Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What really matters on the bucket list

The "bucket list" is made up of things someone wants to do before they die, that is, before they kick the bucket. "The Bucket List" was the name of a 2007 movie starring jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as, "Two terminally ill men [who] escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die."

(Actually, you don't "escape" from a cancer ward. It's not a prison. You just tell the staff you're leaving. See ya, so long, adios, adieu. Then you walk out. But I digress.)

Inspiration and Chai blog has a post about the five most important things to dying people.
For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. ...

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
I won't copy and paste the whole post, but I will point out that in my own years in pastoral ministry, and having ministered to more dying men and women than I wish I had to, I think this writer is spot on. Here are his five "regrets of the dying."
  1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

  2. I wish I didn't work so hard.

  3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

I'll add one myself: "I wish I had been more generous." I have known far too few genuinely generous people. My father in law is one, and so was a man of the first church I served named Wilson Herbert. Generous people die easier, or rather, they come to peace with their terminality quicker. They have not spent their lives grasping and clinging to the things they have, so when it is time to let go of life, they manage that much better. Of course there are other things that matter, too - faith or its lack, for example. But the blogger is right:
It all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
There are no independent men or women, no matter how we like to imagine ourselves so. The Book of Job quotes Job, enduing the worst kind of suffering, as saying, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart" this life. But he was wrong. We are born naked, but we died clothed in the love we gave away. At the end, only love matters. And only love lasts. Only love never ends.