When I think of dying well, a scene from Harry Potter 7 pops into my mind – the scene where the story of the deathly hallows was read by Hermione (the only set of scenes in the Harry Potter series that I did not complain about after I read the books, maybe because that scene was animated). Of the three brothers that Death rewarded, it says of the youngest brother “Only when he attained a great age.… He then greeted Death as an old friend and went with him gladly, departing this life as equals”. It reminds me to live life to the fullest and have little or no regrets on my deathbed.
What gives us the greatest sense of fulfillment are things that we do that goes beyond the mundane task of living, beyond our everyday sameness, beyond our responsibilities. Many people have definitive lists of things to do before they die – 5, 10, 20, 30 or 50 (curious, no “awkward” numbers like 23 or 37). I wonder if they get to do them all. The list of 10 things to do before you die that we present here is more of a guide. Let’s consider the following 10 areas you absolutely consider before Death comes calling.
- Travel: This covers all tourist sites, destinations, and places. From places sculpted by Mother Nature, Biomes that leave you breathless, testimonies to human ingenuity, cultural heritage sites and everything in-between. Any building anything and anywhere that makes you go “woooow”. Those moments that overloads you with an appreciation for environmental beauty. Think Taj Mahal, Great China Wall, the Coral reefs, Grand Canyon, African Safari and the likes.
- Wild and Extreme: Take it a step further and think of adventures that get your system pumping adrenaline as fast as a car pumps fuel. Leave behind the coziness and safety you’ve been used to and attempt the crazy. Bungee jump, go sky diving, party all night at a festival and shout “wooooooooooo!” In short have a blast (but please don’t try drugs).
- Weird and Different: Step outside the box of your thinking and walk in another’s footsteps. Something not so extreme but just outside the ordinary. Visit a nude beach (if you want). Try camping or mountain climbing. What of whale watching? Or ride a camel dressed up like an Arab or go to a food festival.
- Physical: Everyone always seems to want that extra concerning our physique. Stop giving excuses and hit the gym. Or stick to one exercise plan, pay the price in sweat for one month and tone down your thighs. Why not join a pro soccer league and achieve that mini dream you’ve always had of being a player. The beauty of doing something like this before you die is to have taxed your body. Use up all the potential in that body.
- Indulge food whims: Don’t judge those people who derive pleasure from their taste buds. Society seems to monitor and scrutinize everything we put in our mouths (for good reason). But take time out to indulge-something like a chocolate weekend. Learn a new dish, try a cuisine from another country, become an amateur wine connoisseur. Anything and all things food- even weird food combinations. And when you become old and frail, you can regale your grandkids about the time you were the champion at a chili taco eating competition. Cool right?
- Arts: Picasso believed that we are all born creative, we were educated out of creativity. You must reconnect with that dormant application for all things art once again. I use the word “Art” to refer to all tasks that require us to tap deep into the left hemisphere of our brains. The Arts, Poetry, Drama, Books of all types (outside of the ones you are expected to read), Languages, Cultures. I imagine you feeding the starved Michelangelo within you. Have an “artful” experience and see your horizon deepen. A new language, a course on the history of the Incas, or learn about the masters of the canvas of various eras, the list is endless.
- Volunteer: Go beyond yourself. Volunteer for a cause you believe in. It is a common belief that the higher reaches of our nature can be reached by reaching out to others (there is a lot of reach-ing in that sentence). Help with the rescue of oil drenched penguins, join a conservative effort, rally against child abuse or serve food to homeless people on a Saturday or at an old people’s home.
- Emotional: Let go of all emotional baggage. It is not worth it. Though I must congratulate your strength in carrying that much burden around. Forgive your ex, your lying boss, that wicked relative you have and give your emotional nose a breath of fresh air. Drop other attitudes that are quite toxic as well- ego, domineering attitude, putting others down and plain old stubbornness. Let go before you wind up as a cranky old person. (urrrgh!). Let there be laughter lines around your eyes rather than frown lines on your forehead.
- Spiritual: This covers all things that go deep within your soul – religious or not. A holy journey to Mecca, a back to back in-depth study of the Bible, a month meditating with the Dalai Lama (*smiles* hopeful wishes), read about the stories and follow the trail of men that triumphed despite overwhelming challenges (Gandhi, Mandela to name a few). Touch that part of you that derives pleasure from mysteries that cannot be explained.
- Personal: We are all different. And what counts as a priority to one might not be worth noticing to another. Here is for all those personal things not covered in the other 9. Want to trace your family tree? Mentor a young child? Become a public speaker? Own a collection of stamps? Learn kung-fu? Go on and do just that. There is no stopping you when you put your mind to it.
When the time is at hand, I want to have stories to tell – good ones- that leave everyone around delightfully teared in a good way. After I am gone, I want them to have stories that start with “Do you remember that time that….”. And then they sigh and miss me all over again. What of you?