The Bucket List – brought to popular attention by the 2007 Jack Nicholson movie of the same name- is a lovely idea. A checklist which neatly contains all the to-dos that will make your life complete, so that when the time comes to ‘kick the bucket’, you won’t look back with regret.
Go bungee jumping? Check.
Climb Mount Everest? Check.
Run a marathon? Check.
In case you were wondering, I’m checking these off an internet list of most popular bucket list items. I kid you not, there are websites- and now even expos- devoted to getting ideas for your bucket list; you know, because who else but a pool of anonymous strangers could know what experiences are meaningful to you? And obviously these activities mean so much to you, that they plumb slipped your mind.
Don’t get me wrong, these things all sound like a lot of fun and it is great to have challenging goals that are still realistic. But are they really the things that you are going to be concerned with on your deathbed? I’ve not done anything from this list, and if I were to die tomorrow there is not a thought in my mind that I – or anyone – could have lived my life better.
The idea of a true bucket list – a reflection of those few things that are so important to you that they actually will make the final list that runs through your head – is beautiful. A genuine chance to hope for beautiful times, create precious memories and ensure that after death your loved ones know they did everything they could to help you truly live your life.
In paediatric palliative care this is a wonderful way to introduce a conversation around meaningful life experiences that the patient, their parents, their siblings, and extended family would love to be able to share, and that would give the family comfort knowing their loved one had the chance to experience. Things like treasured childhood memories a parent would like to recreate with their child, an experience in nature, or bringing forward a tradition or milestone the child may not otherwise live to see. These things do not need to cost a lot of money, be difficult to pull together, physically taxing, or flashy – they are literally about creating the most of moments.
If you are fortunate enough to have a bucket list that looks like the one above, I implore you to look at what amazing things you already have that allow you to have those goals, and think about which list would actually matter on your deathbed.
No matter how brief their child’s life, I cannot think of one parent I’ve met who could not say that their child ticked off this bucket list –
Feel love? Check.
Feel loved? Check.
And in the end, that’s the most exquisite life any of us can ever hope for.
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”
Moulin Rouge (the movie, not the place – I’ve not been.)
About the author
Melanie Rolfe is a mother, a wife, a dreamer, a dancer, and a doer. She has worked in the not-for-profit sector for the best part of a decade, supporting children, adolescents, and families who are living with a serious illness, life-limiting condition, or the loss of their loved one. Her experience is in psychosocial care and her passion is for empowering every member of the family to live the fullest life possible. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a graduate certificate in adolescent health and welfare specialising in oncology, and is currently studying her Masters in applied positive psychology. She advocates for families as their own experts, and hopes to be the vessel to share the wisdom of the families she has worked with.