A story of finding inspiration in grieving and loss
Recently my family lost a friend, someone whom within a very short span of time of about 5 or 6 years — nudged his way into our hearts more than we realized…until he was taken away swiftly. He was a big man, of personality and heart. And boy did he like to have a good time and bring his friends along for the ride. It was good to be his friend.
As I sat at his funeral service listening to his children, grandchildren and a parade of lifetime friend after lifetime friend speak, laugh, cry, share a story we might not have known…my heart ached at the empty space created by this larger-than-life human being.
He wasn’t holy man or spiritual teacher, just a man navigating life and squeezing the essence out of it one day at a time.
This is probably the reason people liked to be around him without knowing why. It wasn’t just the events and experiences — it was him and how he did life. I don’t think I even realized how much I had been touched by his spirit and joie de vivre…how much of an impact he had made.
“His life was a masterclass in Living.”
“I can still hear his laughter.”
“He always showed up for people.”
“He was the BEST salesman who could talk you into anything.”
And finally, my favorite…
“He lived his bucket list.”
He lived his bucket list?! YES. Can you imagine being remembered for any of these things — living, laughing, showing up, encouraging, doing? What an honor. Even the salesman moniker…because what he was really selling was belief in possibility — the belief that you could achieve greatness (and have a few wild shenanigans) too.
I am grieving the loss of this man. As I stood at the cemetery before his plot I was flooded with my own sadness, remorse and regret, but also inspired to do more in the now. And I’m not talking about the big grandiose gestures. No, I’m speaking of seizing all of the gentle in-between moments of grace. Strewn together they tell their own story. Hey, our ‘bucket lists’ may look different, but it means the same to our souls. It means we listened to the call from within.
Life actually is one big cliché if you think about it.
We grow accustomed to dismissing the wisdom and messages, deeming them over-simplifications — carrying on our merry way. Society tells us to get out there and “achieve” more, more, more — and this is measured in dollars, status, stature…not being and feeling.
We are taught that bucket lists are for “later on”, “somedays” and “down the line”. And yet, we know that the reality is: tomorrow is not promised to any of us. So I ask, what are we waiting for? An invitation? The stars and moon to align perfectly? To have tons of money in the bank? Sure, I’d love all of that too, but my bucket would remain fairly empty if I put those parameters (or any parameters) upon it.
So, we are left to ask, how can we live our bucket list NOW — to incorporate it into our present moments? And what’s in that bucket, while we’re on the subject? What things have you been putting off for “eventually”?
Where do you want to go, what do you want to see, what do you want to create, taste, experience — how do you want to feel? What do you want to birth? How do you want to live? Who do you want to be…and how do you want to be remembered?
It isn’t morbid, it is instead deeply mindful and intentional…a gift. Hell, when I go, please have a party and celebrate my life.
At the gravesite of my friend, the rabbi guided us to put two shovels of dirt on the coffin, explaining that you do the first one with the shovel upside down to signify reluctance. The second time, you turn the shovel right side up, to indicate acceptance. While pained to lose a friend, I was inspired to live more like he had.
Mindfulness isn’t a zero-sum game; an all or nothing. Most people give up on self-care or living vibrant lives because they think it has to look a certain way, that if they miss a day, or fall off track the whole thing is a bust. Not true. Each baby step, each intention, each word of truth expressed, each kindness extended creates trickle down effect in our own lives and within the collective.
Maybe you have a lot of changes to make, maybe not so much. I know that can feel overwhelming, but no matter the size, take action on behalf of your Best Self. Listen to the voice within that has been with you the entire journey: your intuition. What is it asking of you? Where is it directing you to go? Remember, you can run, but you can’t hide from yourself. We can only pretend for so long.
What if you were to just lean into it a bit, to nurture it — to not allow the fear of the unknown to block your joy?
What if you were to plan the trip, start the book, take the nap, sign up for the art class, see the friend, write the love letter, dance, be silly…consider the possibilities? Excuses begone.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live life for the future any longer, to be solely driven by goals, deadlines and potential outcomes. I want to seize my now moments and infuse them with the essence of how I want to be remembered: She lived, loved, laughed, stumbled, got back up, expanded, created and grew her way through the messiness and glory of the human experience. And she made us believe we could too! And damn it was fun and worth it.
Bucket lists are full of expectations, but I think we are going about this all wrong. If we fill our cups each day, we won’t need buckets to store our hopes and dreams for somewhere off in the future. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with dreaming about that luxurious trip to some exotic land or seeing yourself at the book signing of your just-published New York Times bestseller (OK maybe that one is mine…wink). But in the meantime, just look around and see the joy in the very room you are sitting in — appreciate it, expand upon it, be it.
And before you can answer how you want to be remembered…ask yourself how you want to live.~ BLACK ELK
Do you have a bucket list — or something you’ve been putting off for ‘eventually’? What shift could you make today in your life — to lean into more joy, right here, right now?