Your Bucket List

I challenge you to think about your own bucket list. What are the things you want to do, say, or be? And the bigger question is what's stopping you?

Most likely many of you are familiar with the recent movie, The Bucket List. I just watched it for the first time a couple of days ago. Obviously I am not the person who always knows the answers in the pop culture category of games. Although I may not be the first one to see a movie, I eventually get there if I want to see one. That’s how it was with this movie. If you haven’t seen it, put it on your to do list for sure. It’s one of those great movies that stirs up conversations and pushes us to challenge what we might have thought.

In the movie, Edward Cole, played by Jack Nicholson, owns many hospitals and is always looking at how to stretch the bottom line just a little further. But now, he finds himself as a patient in one of his hospitals and cannot quite understand why he isn’t getting the best of the best including a private room. He gets the best doctors and other staff falling all over themselves to meet his many and sometimes farfetched requests. In contrast, his roommate Carter Chambers, played by Morgan Freeman has been in and out of the hospital several times and struggles to get someone to simply bring him some water. He doesn’t ask for much and seems to have learned the “tricks of the trade” when it come to being a patient. That in itself can be a great discussion.

Consciously or not, do we treat all patients the same? If so, why do we still have such things as VIP floors or rooms? Shouldn’t all of our patients be treated like VIPs? Or if we know that someone is a VIP do they deserve more attentive care than the other patients? Be sure to look at the mission and values of your institution and determine if they are aligned with yours on this one for sure.

Now, off of the commercial and back to the main event. As the story continues, we find out that both men have cancer and the outlook is not looking good for either of them. But even through his “I don’t care about anything” attitude, Edward eventually warms up to Carter and decides to share with him what he calls his bucket list. These are things that he needs or wants to do before “kicking the bucket." He draws his new friend and confidant into the plan with him. Some of the things on the list were simply things to see, others were things to do and still others things to say. Some they needed to be talked into completing and others just happened naturally. But the movie wasn’t really about what they were doing as much as what they were learning; about life, themselves, and each other. It was about relationships.

I challenge you to think about your own bucket list. What are the things you want to do, say, or be? And the bigger question is what’s stopping you? I’ve had the conversation often with friends about whether you’d rather know you were going to die or just die in your sleep or in an instant because of some type of accident or trauma. Interestingly, most people I’ve talked to say they’d rather have it happen quick and fast with no knowledge. I, on the other hand, always say I’d want to know. I think a lot of things go into the choice that people make. If they’ve experienced one or the other in someone they love, it tends to color their own choice. Some say they lost someone in a tragic accident and felt somehow cheated in being able to say goodbye. Others say that saying goodbye would be too difficult to endure. So where do you stand? And why do you think that’s your choice? I believe that, because I’ve had the honor to make the journey with so many patients and families through the end of life, I am more accepting of it. I’ve seen how life giving it can be to do things you’ve always wanted to do and how healing it can be to say things you’ve always wanted to say. But I’m not going to wait until I get some terminal illness to give myself permission to do that. For all I know I could be the victim of a terrible accident that takes me instantly. I don’t want regrets. I don’t want anyone to ever wonder how I really felt about them. So I try to live each day as if it is first a gift and second perhaps the last that I’ll get. Am I always successful? Absolutely not. I have to do it over and over again. I have to remind myself not to get so tied up in the things that cause me great stress and remember that I should cherish the gift I’ve been given and make the most of what it is or rather what it can be.