Smiling on a Bucket List Trip

by Jake Block

“Bucket List

noun informal
a number of experiences of achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime: making this trip is the first thing on my bucket list.

early 21st Century: from the phrase kick the bucket “die,” popularized bu the 2007 film, The Bucket List.”
— Webster’s Dictionary

On my recent trip to Kansas City, in a little club on the outskirts of town, Devora and I met a gentleman and his lady and shared their table, sipping drinks and enjoying the ambience with the light-hearted crowd. The music was good, and while loud enough to get people onto the floor to “shake it down,” it was still moderate enough to allow people to talk without shouting. So, we shared some conversation and a few laughs with Larry and Deb.

Larry, is dying. He knows it, and he knows there is nothing he can do about it. He has just one kidney, and it is in the process of failing, and he is unable to get a single-kidney transplant. Doctors have assured him that if he would live his life tied to a machine, they could give him more time, and while this might be an option for many, Larry has decided that he’s had enough with a lifetime of submitting to the temporary respites of medical machinery. He has decided that it’s time to just recognize that it’s time to let nature take its course. He’s ready, and has tattooed “DNR” (Do Not Resuscitate) on his chest… a final, irrevocable instruction that tells doctors not to revive him, but to let him die.

Now, Larry’s not sad. Larry’s joyous in his decision, and has been spending the past month driving, criss-crossing America to see the things he’s always wanted to do, from seeing Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL, to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, New York, to Kitty Hawk, NC and Kill Devil Hills, where Wilbur and Orville Wright first explored the wonder of controlled flight on their legendary Wright Flyer. We sat and listened to his tale and Deb held his hand and smiled, as he recounted the journey that brought him to this point in his life, in a sultry little club, enjoying a drink with his love and two new friends. From this night forward, he told us, he knows he’ll have to slow it down, not only because his health will begin to decline, but that travel is expensive, and he has to make sure his money outlasts the time he has left to live.

Devora and Deb both felt that this bear of a man might have more time to live that he thought he would, and I hope so as well, because someone who takes control of his own life and has the guts to face the cold stare of death with a smile is someone that the world can learn from. But Larry’s pragmatic about it all. Any day above ground is a good day, but all good things come to an end. At the end of the evening we shook hands and hugged all around and we left them to their lives, and they left us to ours. For myself, I think I’m better off for meeting him, and hope that I can be as clear-eyed and resolute when death begins to stalk me.

While I think that we may all know, even if in abstract, that we’ll eventually die, we often don’t really understand that this is it… our “last hurrah.” There comes a time when we can’t put off enjoying what life has to offer. Before I die, I plan to live more life, enjoy more love, have adventures galore and then, get my very own DNR tattoo and lay it down to rest so someone else can enjoy the ride!

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