Remember that movie a few years back called The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman? It sparked a lot of people’s imaginations and motivated them to get out there and do the things in life they had only dreamed about before it was too late. Most people probably made lists containing some far off exotic location, hidden beaches, mountain hikes, seeing a Broadway Show, and other life fulfilling moments. I never did see the movie, but I know firsthand that if you wait until you are diagnosed as terminal, then those last few weeks, perhaps months, will not find you in any condition to fly anywhere in the world and enjoy it in the manner in which you had imagined experiencing it. You won’t have the appetite for the luxurious restaurants, you won’t want to drag your oxygen tank across the sand as you lie out in your bikini on your beach towel, and you won’t have the energy to climb any mountainous trails. Those types of lists are best made and carried out well before you get sick. Those bucket lists are meant for you to think about and appreciate your life in the now.
I don’t mean to imply that in a person’s final weeks of life that all hope and joy is gone or lost. On the contrary, all that changes is the type of things one puts down on their final bucket list. The desire for ‘one more time’ remains strong, but unfortunately they may have either given up hoping it can happen, feel their desires have become irrelevant, or they simply don’t have the means to make it happen.
A woman in her 90’s dying at the hospice house made mention one day to the social worker that she regretted having never graduated from high school. The social worker took that little admission and ran with it. Within two days our patient’s bed was wheeled out into our beautiful large family area which had been decorated to celebrate the occasion. The local high school principal came, and in front of friends and family, a graduation speech was given as well as honorary diploma to our patient who was proudly wearing both cap and gown for the occasion. It was the look on hers and everyone elses faces that was priceless. It often times is the simple acts, such as a family reunion held in the hospice family room, a wedding day visit from the bride and groom, a strolling guitar player making his way down hallways and into rooms each week, that bring much joy to many in their last remaining days.
For those who are still able to enjoy bigger outings there are the remarkable undertakings of such groups as the Make a Wish Foundation for dying children as well as the various wish granting organizations like Reeling and Healing Midwest and Second Wind Dreams for dying adults who make those last visits to the ocean, visiting home, or going out into the community, possible. Sometimes it may be you who becomes the wish grantor. Perhaps that person you know in their last weeks or days may be looking for something simpler, like maybe just wanting to leave the confines of their room and feel the sun against their face and see the sky, or simply tasting ice cream from their favorite ice cream stand. When you go to see your dying loved one find out what it is they may be thinking is no longer possible. You may be surprised and delighted to find it is something you can provide and make happen.
For inspiration watch this beautiful video about the Ambulance Wish Foundation, then you may want to look further into the opportunities provided by Make a Wish Foundation, Eternal Wish Foundation, and Dream Foundation to name just a few…