Last Monday at our weekly Theology on Tap gathering, we discussed death. Cheery topic, I know, but we had a wonderful conversation about funerals, memorial services, preparing wills and other documents, and how we perceive our own impending deaths.
Someone mentioned the idea of living each day as if it were your last, and another considered the idea of living each day as if it were your first. Somewhere in the middle of it we talked about our bucket lists – things we want to do before we die. Someone said he was writing a history of his life so that his close descendants could look back and see that dad had done things he wanted to do.
Now I have joked a time or two about a bucket list, but I realized at that gathering that if I had a list, there are a number of things that would already be crossed off it. And more – there are things that other people might wish were on my list, but I know don’t belong there at all. Does anyone know some of the things I’ve done – that I wanted to do? Does anyone know why there are things I haven’t done and am okay with?
It seems to me that we keep looking ahead with longing, or back with regret. But this kind of assessment lets us look at our lives with some sense of connection to who we are and where we’re headed. I want someone to know that not only did I not have kids, but I was fine with it. I want someone to know that I’d always wanted to live in NYC and go to grad school and I got to do both at the same time. I want someone to know big and little things have happened in my life that are pretty cool. I want someone – besides me – to know something about me.
We don’t know when we will kick the bucket. I hope it’s a long time from now, but just in case… here’s a quick list of some notable things I have gotten to do and have chosen not to do, and few things I still hope to do. Just in case.
Things I’ve wanted to do, that I did (even if I didn’t realize it was something I wanted to do until I did it):
- Live in New York City
- Live and work on a tropical island
- Travel to the Channel Islands
- Fall in love and live with a partner (it’s been a while, but I did it)
- Finish my bachelors
- Get a graduate degree
- Discover where I belong spiritually
- Organize a protest
- Organize a voter-registration drive
- Present a paper at an academic conference
- Direct and perform on Broadway (accomplished on a technicality – I directed and performed at Union Theological Seminary, which is on Broadway and 121st)
- Preach to over 150 people
- Meet some heroes: Rita Mae Brown, Z Budapest, Starhawk, Marilynne Robinson, Bill Moyers, Harry Belafonte, Harvey Fierstein, Carly Simon, Lee Smith, Kaye Gibbons, Ysaye Barnwell
- Sing for someone well known (Carter Heyward is a giant in feminist theology and I got to sing to her at her partner’s memorial service)
- Get paid to act
- Get paid to do comedy
- Get a standing ovation
- Be a redhead
Things that were never on a bucket list (and I’m perfectly okay with that):
- Have kids
- Own a house
- Marry my high school sweetheart
- Run a race of any sort
- Go to the top of any building or tower
Things that still exist on the bucket list:
- Be ordained
- Figure out the answer to just one of life’s big questions
- Conduct a wedding
- Be able to support myself doing my arts ministry
- Retire to the Channel Islands
- Visit New Zealand and Australia
- Be my ideal weight – just once, please?
- Get Lasix surgery
- Pay off my student loans
- Play Mame and Dolly
- Meet my grand-nieces and grand-nephews
- Write a book
- Meet one more hero: Stephen Fry