Before I Die…
This Memorial Day, as we honor the men and women who fought for our freedoms and laid down their lives in service to our country, I thought it would also be a good time to share the following, and create our own "wall" here in this community…
Before I Die Project
"It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget what really matters to you. With help from old and new friends, Candy turned the side of an abandoned house in her neighborhood in New Orleans into a giant chalkboard where residents can write on the wall and remember what is important to them. Before I Die is a public art project that invites people to reflect on their lives and share their personal aspirations in public space. Painted with chalkboard paint and stenciled with the sentence ‘Before I die I want to _______’, the wall turned a neglected space into a constructive one where we can gain perspective. It’s a question that changed Candy after she lost someone she loved very much. The wall helped her understand her neighbors in new and enlightening ways, restore perspective in her daily life, and remember she is not alone. By having more ways to share our hopes, fears, and stories in public space, the people around us can not only help us make better places, they can help us lead better lives."
What do you want before you die?
This is quite the subject, and one that should be given full attention. After all, eventually, each of us will die.
I had a brush with death 11 years ago. I developed epilepsy late in life and my neurologist prescribed the standard tests (including an MRI) to see if anything could be blamed for causing the epilepsy. The MRI showed dark spots on my brain. The neurologist interpreted them as “potential” brain tumors. I’m sure he said “potential”, but all I heard was “you have brain tumors!!!!!!!!!” He suggested that I update my Will and resolve any issues I may have.
My mind was racing a million miles per hour. What would I do? How long did I have? What if he’s wrong? What if he’s right? What needs to be done? What can I ignore? … I remember seeing his mouth moving in slow motion, but I didn’t hear any of the words coming out of his mouth. Then, I forced myself to FOCUS so I could hear his suggestions. It seemed important, so I stopped him and asked him to repeat whatever he said after “I should resolve issues.”
He smiled and asked me if I wanted him to tell me his “unvarnished opinion.” I said, “please do!” He told me that I may be dying in the next few months and I should get my affairs in order.
Try to imagine what you’d do in my shoes. I can tell you that I found it quite devastating. After leaving the doctor’s office, I sat in the parking lot for about an hour, trying to think what I should do. My mind was racing about all the things I wanted to do, but put off because of money or time. Ironically, none of them seemed important. The only thing that seemed important was tying up loose ends.
Over the next several weeks, I updated my Will, called the local Medical College to see if they wanted another cadaver, called old friends, and worked on resolving old issues with everyone I cared about. I also read every thing I could about brain tumors and dealing with them.
In the meantime, I dutifully took my epilepsy medicine and ramped up the dosage as prescribed. At the same time, I was developing these excruciating headaches that got worse with each passing week. I assumed the headaches were caused by the tumors.
I was scheduled to receive a follow-up MRI 3 months later, so I accepted my fate as stoically as possible and waited for the MRI. The day of the MRI, I envisioned the results showing a softball sized tumor, and the doctor telling me that they had to “yank it out.”
I decided that I wouldn’t have surgery … that I would let nature take it’s course. I like being me. I didn’t want to have memories or personality … or anything else removed by surgery. I was ready to die.
It turns out that there wasn’t anything growing in my skull. I was one of the small percentage of people who have an adverse reaction to the drug I was prescribed. The doctor changed my medication and after the transition, the headaches disappeared.
Now, 11 years later, I still only want to keep loose ends tied up. That is why I’m a member here.
I have no idea. But great thought – certainly worth thinking about. Maybe the process of thinking about it is the goal?
Poet, that’s a really good question. After sitting here for several minutes trying to come up with my answer, I find I don’t know what it is, which surprised me!
I guess one thing I do know is that before I die, I want to have given my son a good start in life. I want him to know that he is loved, and to help him develop into a person of good character. I want to help him develop the capacity to deal with whatever his future holds. And most of all, I want to nurture his wonderful sense of humor and joy of being.
And honestly, the elephant in the room we all have to face is, “What if I am part of the great, big nasty die-off?” Despite our preps, we all–individially–might be one of the statistically more probable “unlucky ones.” Eek.
I identify with Grover, though, mainly since I also had a near-death experience.
Let me be more accurate: I am one of those folks who techichally died, had “out of body post-death experinces,” and came back. Let me tell you – such an experience colors the rest of your life. Nothing keeps mortality firmly in view like losing your life, yanno?
I was six years old, but it feels like yesterday. And while, to quote an old, cute phrase, “Everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die to get there,” certainly includes me on that everybody, death is no longer frightening to me. Dying is scary, yes, but not death itself.
Anyhow, I’m 57 now. Bucket list? I wanted to be a wife and mother, and rasied three wondeful sons. Husband #1 ran off but #2 is a dream come true best buddy soulmate. And I wanted to become a heavy construction safety engineer, and managed that goal, too. I wanted to become a science fiction author and I have moved to a place of prominence in my foeld as an editor and writer, which will help the novels I and writng to get published – the short stories already are being publihsed. Something to work on. None of these came easily; I had to work my tail off, often so hard that I was nearly put in the hospital. I wanted a degree; it took me until I was 50 to chip away at that. Now my goal is to get our home as susatinable as possible, for my family. I’m passing on gardening and other skills. I’m building community.
As far as giving back, I have had the priveledge of helping many people via running food banks, mentoring, career counseling and resume writing, home visitation of the elderly, and other fulfulling roles. I was able to keep my mother out of a nursing home and am helping other family and friends. But it keeps on bouncing back onto me! I have an elderly friend who has a couple of explanations for that. She says, if you keep on giving joy, it rubs off on you and works its way into your soul. She also is convinced that, “You can’t outgive the Almighty, but it sure is fun to try!”
Anyone afraid for the future could do a heck of a lot worse that dealing with their fear by giving of themselves to others, and being an example by taking action to become less swayed by the changes that are coming. It sure beats sitting there paralyzed by dread.
As for me, I’m paraphrasing the lady policeman in Fargo. I’ve had it “pretty darned good.” Dark times are ahead. A crisis is coming, but remember that the Chinese character for crisis is “danger + opportunity.” I’ve stockpiled a lot of love and help for others and hope to have oppotunities be able to give until it hurts when the crisis hits. And after that, I’ve been to the other side.
…before I die is to play a key role in my local community’s creation of the Next World — to live a simple hand-made life and to help those around me do the same.
Viva — Sager.
I hope to see my three children in the body of Christ. I hope to be an example of love and acceptance. I want to survive what is coming and be an asset to the future.
Before I die I want to……get all this defered maintenance done on this F%#*@ing house! Or master my destiny. One or the other….Aloha, Steve.
At 68 I think I’m ready to go but hope to have another 20 years to see my grandchildren grow up.
If societal breakdown totally destroys our sophisticated medical care system then I’m afraid my wife has little resilience while my life expectancy gets truncated. As a survivor living with a chronic cancer for the past 14 years I’m at peace and have accepted what may come and while the most recent treatment has had superb results the product would no longer be available should I need another kick at that can.
This is a tough question. I’ve asked a few friends, and the answers often at first come fast and flippant (as above- my post #7). I would wager a good portion of the posters here relate to Sager’s as a noble, desireable, and attainable goal. I’m already pretty well dialed-in in that regard in my professional, personal, and volunteer life, but is that enough? Is that what this life is about? I have come to the conclusion that I just don’t want to be on my deathbed muttering to myself in my final glimpse of enlightenment “I got it all wrong…”. Trusting God will look kindly on my shenanigans- hoping She has a sense of humor (more than I can fathom, I’d guess…). Live Well, Love Fully. Aloha, Steve