Before I Die, On Bucket Lists, Death Preparation, and Living

By Will Randolph


In 2011, Journalist and author Candy Chang, decided to help her neighborhood share their wisdom with each other. She created a giant chalkboard where folks could answer everyday questions for each other on the sides of the house. A variety of questions were posed based on her dreams, her unanswered questions in life, her joys and grief’s, all with the hope to help to make the world a better place.

After losing someone close to her, she posed the following question, "Before I die, I want to." To her amazement the next day this 4 sided chalkboard was filled in completely with the bucket lists of her neighbors and passerby’s. Realizing this question hit a nerve, she developed a toolkit for others to make these walls and now the "Before I Die, I Want to" walls have been made in over 70 countries. A book has been published as a result of the project entitled the "Before I Die Book" with some of the answers to this question and with interviews of those who filled in the blank on these walls.

I think this project is something which churches should try, especially with their older adult church school classes. It is death preparation, or should I say it is fully living preparation. This is because it is a safe way to think about our finite and limited lives more than it is to think about our eventual deaths. Whatever, we fill into the blank it gives our lives meaning and purpose, if we make a commitment to actually complete what we set out to do. In completing the goal or aim, we then can pass with the idea our lives meant something, there is some record of our existence, and we can let go of life feeling more accomplished.

In the 2007 movie, "The Bucket List," this living fully in the last days of life is portrayed actively by two patients who are aware there time was short so they developed a bucket list of things they would experience and do together before they died and they committed themselves to helping each other achieve these items, and live a great life before they passed on. Fully dying means fully living before you die, so they took this to heart. This poignant movie portrays the mistakes they made along the way in marking off their "bucket lists," but also what they really learned about living from their dying process; what they learned about life, themselves, and about others.

What is on my bucket list? Before I Die, I Want To? I thought by this point in the blog I would have come to a definitive answer. It used to be learning how to fly an airplane. Then it was to sail from Erie, PA across to Canada. Once upon a time it was to publish several books. The neat thing about this open ended question is that it can evolve as we grow, mature, and change. Last year, I simply said I wanted to experience a summer again of boating, read the Bible all the way through again, and go overseas, and see my Alma Mata Duke win another national championship in Basketball. .

Perhaps the question at this point is whether my goals in life are selfish or not. Well the goal to hang onto life long enough to see Pittsburgh Steelers grab a 7th Super bowl ring maybe, just look at my Chicago Cubs friends who are clinging to life so they can see their bums in the World Series again (I hope it is the Pirates instead), to commit to this question, if we do not want to live a selfish life, it should be to fill in the blank, "Before I Die, I Want to" with something which is altruistic, and benefit others. It is alright to have a bucket list of personal goals, but we should have a commitment to others in our choices. Therefore my final answer to this question is, "Before I Die, I Want to bring joy to someone every day." I guess I want to help folks laugh, so maybe I will become a comedian before I die.

Now you. "Before you die, You want to ______________________." I really hope to see churches put up these walls for folks to fill in their desires and hungers, share their wisdom, etc. As we do so we should remember this quote, I only began to truly live, when I accepted the fact I was going to die....we all live with a death sentence but we can choose to live life with a life sentence of squeezing as much of life as we can into the time we have here. If you complete all your blanks or bucket lists let me know.