We cycled through Hokitika, on the West coast of New Zealand, a few days a go. On arrival we read of sculpture and driftwood artworks on the beach front and decided to take a look. Amongst what seemed to be remains of wood piles, next to the promenade, were half a dozen blackboards. Already painted with the words “before I die”, it was for visitors and passers by to complete the sentence with the chalk provided. I decided to take a look.
As ever with something so public the said passers by had chosen a variety of ways in which to respond. While some used it as an opportunity to state a more philosophical approach to life (be happy; make people smile), others used it as a chance to be more specific (cycle South America, run a marathon) and there were of course a few more churlish responses (have sex or try cocaine). Hey, we never know who writes these things so maybe even the latter two examples were, for their authors a bold departure from their current existence, yet I still couldn’t help walking away feeling something wasn’t quite right.
Firstly, I got the sense many people didn’t really know what to write though, after some contemplation and a continuation of my reading on lessons from those working in palliative care, I have finally decided the big problem lies with the start of the sentence.
While we all joke of the only real certainties in life being death and taxes we still live in a culture where we predominantly view death as an event so far in the future it should not concern us. Of course we do not want to live a morbid existence yet we chose to ignore or forget our mortality. One life, one opportunity has very much been the mantra of our cycle tour and with that in mind I couldn’t help wondering whether people would take more time to consider what they may do before they die if we bring the question back to a timeframe they accept more readily……the present.
The concept of what we wish to be remembered for and, going back to the original question, of accomplishments price to death is of course a concept we are hugely familiar with. Just don’t familiarity become flippancy. Don’t leave it too late.
So, what do you want to do right now; what do you yearn to do with your partner; what do you wish to achieve while you have your health; what real goals are you actively working towards?
What do you want to do while you’re alive?