My wife and I recently viewed the movie, Seeking A Friend for the End of the World. The movie was billed as a comedy, but was anything but. However, the main point to me was the question of how we would spend our final days if we knew them to be our final days. Some people call the activities to do prior to death as being the “bucket list; the activities to do before you “kick the bucket”. In the movie, many people spent their final days frivolously with free sex and parties; others continued with routine and sometimes trivial experiences (such as mowing the lawn), and others attempted to find ways to prolong life in a reduced capacity (such as living in a small underground shelter). The main plot had a romantic element and my intent isn’t to debate the movie.
In thinking back on the movie, I realized there are multiple attitudes toward such a possible situation. Of the approaches depicted, the people I admired were those who continued in their routine (although I might skip mowing the lawn). At first, my choice troubled me so I dug deeper into my reasoning. What I believe is that, if we are living our life according to our preferences, then hearing of the end of our lives should not cause a change in lifestyle but a continuation thereof: although not necessarily a successful life, still a well-thought life.
Yes, there’s a caveat in that prior sentence. The caveat is that we should be living a life that reflects our beliefs and priorities, a life where we are never apologetic for any day’s deeds, a life that involves us in a bigger picture of our time on Earth. For example, making final comments to close friends and relatives might be a natural activity, but such contact should be relatively routine, not one where an apology is offered for not having been in contact. If we have been remote and removed from those we love, a final phone call does little, as it acknowledges wasted time, time than can never be regained. If this is not a description of our lives, then we should reexamine now and not wait to be told that there are only days left.
I make my comments with no condemnation to those who would learn French, see the Grand Canyon, go sky-diving or climb the Matterhorn. If those are one’s dreams then do them now. Make them part of your life; don’t live a life of unfulfilled dreams. Yet we should all remember, at the end of life there is no scorecard for any of that. Rushing to achieve at the end is not the goal of life. Life is here, and is here but once.
Similar to those who desire to do many things are those who want to amass many items. I have heard the phrase, the one who dies with the most toys wins. To me, that is a rationalization of excess, an implicit admission that the items referenced bring question to their contribution to one’s happiness. To die with a life focus on acquiring items leaves behind people who remember only this obsession. If we are to be remembered after we are gone, then people must be part of our focus in life, for we live on Earth beyond our passing only in the memories of others.
Speaking for myself, I have no bucket list, no set of dreams to which I aspire. I live each day and focus on tomorrow and today; I learned much of that from our dog who relishes each day anew. Life is short and she makes the most of what she can. There is a lesson there for us all.