Some years ago on my 50th birthday, I took the day off from work and sat on my front porch, chain-smoking a pack of Benson & Hedges 100s and drinking a second pot of coffee. There and then I made the decision to live my life fully. I made my Bucket List.
Before that day, I had given up on my Life’s Dreams and Desires. I thought my life was over, done, finished… except for the things I was absolutely required to do, like going to work, making sure my daughter finished high school, paying my bills.
I hadn’t always been so dour and hopeless, so resigned. I had been an optimistic, happy dreamer for most of my years. I had dreams and plans, hopes and desires. I loved my life.
But then Life changed. And I thought and even prayed that my part in it was over.
Four years prior to that decisive day on my porch, my precious son, Ben, died. At the age of 21 he left us: mother, sister, brother… here, grieving and broken. I couldn’t bear to go on with my own Life Plan when my son didn’t have the same opportunity.
I thought surely that a loving God would let me die, too. But he didn’t.
Everyone who loved me had told me that I had to go on, that Ben would not want me to spend the rest of my life grieving. They told me that he would want me to be happy, to move forward. They said it was my duty, my obligation to my self and to his memory as well as to his brother and sister.
And so it was that on my 50th birthday, I realized that I wasn’t going to die…not anytime soon. According to statistics for healthy, Caucasian women I would probably live another 28 years whether I wanted to or not.
I realized it was my choice to make the rest of my life count for something. It was my choice to either enjoy my extended years or to waste them.
I could continue to curse the darkness or I could choose to light a candle.
I realized that when my Life’s race is run, I don’t desire a crown, a trophy or a blue ribbon as my reward. I want a white ribbon with “PARTICIPANT” emblazoned across it.
I lit a candle and I made my Bucket List.
Because I was entering my 51st year of life, I put 51 items on my Bucket List. These were things I intended to accomplish in my 51st year. The list included things I needed to do, wanted to do, and longed to do.
And, by god, I did everything on that list. I accomplished my goals slowly, consciously… haltingly, painfully.
Some actions were very small: get a manicure, sort through my books and give some away, clean out my closet.
Others were huge: finish my children’s book, leave my landlocked hometown and visit Big Sur.
It hurt like hell to get back in the race. But I did it anyway.
Now, each year on my birthday, I make another Bucket List. The List includes both the big and small: travel to Costa Rica, get a good haircut, attend a T-ball game, read ten good books.
The first year of the Bucket List, I:
- flew alone on an airplane for the first time ever
- drove up the California coastline to Big Sur
- let someone else paint my fingernails
- give away all my old clothes
- made a scrapbook
- read 51 books
and oh, so many other things.
Following the items on other Bucket Lists, I have:
- zip-lined over a Costa Rica valley
- chosen a paint color for my bathroom and painted it
- planted a butterfly garden
- eaten fresh vegetables from my own garden
- read a book (or a hundred) to my grandchildren
- passed out candy at Halloween
and oh, so many other lovely things.
This year my Bucket List has 56 items to do. So far I have:
- gone on a road trip with my daughter
- witnessed the birth of my new granddaughter
- rocked the new baby to sleep
- written articles for my oldest son’s newspaper
- planted a rose bush
- watched my grandson and granddaughter play T-ball
And, oh, there are so many more lovely things left to experience.
It is my duty and my obligation to do the things I can and experience all that my Life has in store for me. I honor my own Life and the lives of my children and grandchildren in this way.
Making a Bucket List gives me clarity and inspiration. It gives me hope. I still grieve but I move forward, sometimes with joy, sometimes with pain.
I will continue to make a Bucket List for each year that I have ahead of me. And, by God’s grace, I will do everything on the List.
by: Peggy Browning
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