I think most people have a bucket list in one form another. For me, it’s been a roughly written, ever-evolving crumpled piece of paper containing places I’d like to go, and things I’d like to do.
Although informal and whether intended or not, I’ve wandered into accomplishing many items on the list. The rest? I figured I’ll get around to in time. Until…
The Bucket List
Recently, I was visiting with someone at work. While I can’t disclose specifics, this individual was in their mid-fifties and not from Alaska. The conversation went something like this.
Me, “So, tell me a little bit about yourself?”
Reply, “Well, I’ve had ____ for a long time and found out about a month ago that it’s now terminal, maybe 3 months left.”
Me, unsure how to comfort them, “I’m so sorry to hear that.”
Reply, “Thank you, it’s ok.”
Me, “What can I do to help you enjoy some foods you can tolerate while you are with us.”
Reply, “I can’t eat much so I’ll just pick what sounds good from the menu. I hate Ensure and I’m not going to do tube-feedings.”
I nodded at the answer, but could tell this person wanted to talk a little bit more, so I asked, “What brought you to Alaska?” The reply was like a slap in the face.
“My last dream was to see Alaska. So I stopped treatment, talked to my family, planned the trip fast, and we all came up. I haven’t gotten to see much because I ended up here, but I’m hoping to see Denali. At least it was clear when the plane flew in and I could see all the endless mountains and ocean. I hope I can see more.”
Stunned and almost in tears, I sat back and mumbled, “Yes, those are beautiful views. It’s an amazing place and I love living here. Hopefully you won’t be here long and get out and see Alaska.”
Reply, “Me too, but I’m not sure what I can even do at this point.” I offered a few suggestions, told them how to have the nurse page me if I could do anything else, gave them a hug and well wishes, then walked out the door.
After 26 years as a dietitian, I’m still not as hardened as I wish I was.
No One Can See The Future
That conversation haunted me. Here was a person near my age, facing mortality, trying to live their final dream in Alaska. My biggest worry that day was probably what to fix for dinner, and whose dishes it was.
I wondered if the family’s time here in AK fulfilled the parent’s goal. I hoped so, as they were gone before the next time I was scheduled to visit.
That person was not the only one I’ve worked with recently whose last wish was to see Alaska. The other 3 happened to be on ventilators.
The cold, hard fact is that I’ve met many patients from <1 year old to over a 100 who have passed away. A lot of them never got the chance to even make goals, or took the time to check off the bucket list.
My Own Bucket List
Last weekend on my work trip to Seward, I spent the whole 3 hour drive down thinking about what I really want to do before it’s my time to go.
After scuba diving and exploring much of the Caribbean and Central America, hiking, skiing, rafting and camping all over the western USA, and living in Hawaii; I have knocked off a good chunk of the “playtime” list.
But I’ve also had a family I love dearly, kept my faith, supported my husband through a successful career, and reached my own professional goals. Despite some bumps, I acknowledge that it has been a DANG GOOD LIFE!
While in Seward, it was raining. I walked along the shore of Resurrection Bay after work absorbing all that I love about this place: the mountains, ocean, forest, tundra, trees, flowers, sea-life, wildlife, adventures, weather (yes the weather), smells, sounds, food…
I almost slapped myself in the forehead: “I am living in my own Bucket List!”
Heli-skiing in Valdez, Scuba Diving with Belugas and icebergs, yearly polar plunges, and watching polar bears…those are all here in my very large back yard! My heart soared when I figured out that I was indeed living my dream.
The New Bucket List
Two things have come from my recent experience.
First, since it seems Alaska is on a lot of bucket lists, I decided to write a series of posts on activities that most anyone can do to see some of the diversity of Alaska. Last summer, I wrote 3 posts on cheap summer fun so this year I’m calling the 3 posts “AK Fun for Everyone”.
My parents were recently here so they got to test out the topics. While certainly not impaired, my Dad is approaching 80, and my Mom just turned 77. They had a ball along with my kids and 20 year old nephew. So watch for those coming soon.
Second, I have a new bucket list which I’ll write about this fall so I can cull some pictures from the vault. Suffice it to say, the big ticket item is to go scuba diving in Wakatobi, Indonesia.
Finally, I love how Oscar Wilde puts it,
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that’s all”
I resolve to always live. When it’s my time to kick the bucket, I don’t want anything I’d regret left on the list.