It’s the time of year for reflections on what we’ve done and what we intend (though both take us out of the moment). I keep seeing references to bucket lists, which seem related to that reflection on doing and intending so I’ve been reflecting on such lists and wondering again whether I should have one and why I can’t seem to get too interested.
They usually seem to involve places that must be visited or hair-raising things to do like sky diving and snorkeling—or inventing the new sport of sky diving in snorkeling gear into the ocean (skorkeling?)–or seeing some long list of famous sites or countries, etc. And the idea is that you won’t die feeling satisfied with your life if you haven’t completed your list. I have a dream of going to the immersion school at Villefranche-sur-Mer so that my long flirtation with French can become fluency. But I can’t imagine lying on my death bed going, “Damn, I never learned to speak French.”
Some years ago I had a brief acquaintance with an elderly man named Amos Lawrence. He was in his 90’s and one of those people with such kindness and charm and ability to listen that I instantly adored him. He’d been a headmaster at a local private school and I knew both a number of his contemporaries through my family and a couple of people who’d been students and who loved him. When he died at an age when most people would have a lightly attended funeral, the giant First Presbyterian Church here was filled to standing room with people who’d been touched by his great goodness. I thought then, “I want to live my life that well.”
When I watch Inside the Actor’s Studio and they come to the final of the Bernard Pivot questions, “If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?”, I answer, “She loved well.” The only deathbed regrets I’ve ever heard have involved relationships not fulfilled or resolved, love not given, etc. Do you think anybody cares on their deathbed whether they went scuba diving or had the best table in all restaurants or learned to speak French? Or do we all care if we have lived a good life by whatever moral compass we hold? Will we care whether we loved our family and friends well enough that they knew they were loved? What do you think really matters about how you live your life and what you do? Or do you think I’ll be sorry on my deathbed that I never completed a bucket list?
Either I don’t have a bucket list or mine is very short: attaining the place where I hold the space of love from the inside out.. And I’ll actually be happy if I’ve just progressed along the path toward lovingkindness as best I could.