Six months ago a friend of mine got sick. She was just thirty years old; a vibrant, joyful, beautiful woman. She had a smile that would brighten anyone’s day.
She had cancer.
She died last weekend. Her brief and painful struggle with cancer ended, leaving grieving friends and family. So quick. So unchangeable.
Her sickness and death has made all those close to her think about the value of life, and how we want to use our fragile lives.
These days I hear so much talk about bucket lists and the things people feel they should do before they die. These lists are full of places to visit, foods to try, achievements to pursue.
As I mentally compile my list, I imagine what I would plan to do if I were told I would die within six months. What things would I want to try for the first time? What things would I like to do for the last time?
But really, I find few things on my list.
It’s not because I don’t enjoy travelling, eating or learning. I’ve filled my life with those things. As an expat travel writer I’ve had my adventures. I have shared my bed with scorpions and spent time in a South American jail. I have sailed on canoes out to deserted islands in the Caribbean. I have swum in red jade rivers down by the border of the Amazon jungle.
But I don’t have a bucket list full of those things. My bucket list is not focused on the outward, physical world around me. It’s not about what travel destination I should have visited, it’s not about what adventure I should have tried, it’s not about what bizarre food I should have eaten.
My bucket list is inward.
It’s about love. It’s about appreciating people around me. It’s about opening my heart enough to overlook weaknesses, forgive wrongs, and enjoy the uniqueness of each person.
It’s about giving, about enriching other people’s lives with a word of comfort, a bit of wisdom and a lot of empathy. It’s about keeping in touch with loves ones whether they are near or far away.
It’s about contentment, loving each day despite the difficulties that come up.
In the end I don’t think it will matter if I drank wine in Paris, or ate pizza in Napoli, or swam on the shores of a Greek island. Perhaps I will do those things, but they aren’t the important things.
The value of my life will not be counted by the stamps in my passport or the amount of countries I visited or the exotic cuisine I ate. The important thing will be how I lived on the inside, how I loved and trusted others, how I was enriched by them and how they were enriched by me.
That’s because my bucket list isn’t about dying. It’s about living fully.