I love movies, and one of my favorite (yet saddest) parts of the Oscars every year is the In Memoriam tribute to those in the film industry who passed away the previous year. What always strikes me are the faces, the slow motion film clips backed by a solemn instrumental, and thinking, Wow, that’s it. A lifetime of accomplishment is over. And now they are but a memory played over and over again on a silver screen.
And we won’t remember them for all of the trophies they were nominated for, or all of the extravagant homes they owned, or the exotic vacations they went on, or even the demons they dealt with in their private (and sometimes public) lives. We will remember them for their performances, their art, their talents, the stories they played out on a two dimensional screen reeling us to higher dimensions of laughter and tears and thought-provoking subjects, and in some cases, messages so powerful they changed us. Ultimately, it was their gift to the world.
As I caught a glimpse of stardom through the lives of these Hollywood icons, I thought of a recent blog post I read, “Who needs a bucket list?”, written by my friend and fellow writer David Rupert.
I’ve kept an informal list of my own over the years. Not so much my goals list but a things I’d like to do before I die list, a places I’d like to visit list. You know, big things. Exciting things. But something David wrote made me think twice about where that falls in my priorities. He writes, “The problem with bucket lists is that the deadline is death — and that’s an uncertainty.”
I’m not at all saying we shouldn’t plan for travel and adventure in this life. Far from it! In the midst of troubles and disease and bloodshed, our world is still full of joy and wonder. It is there, in part, for our enjoyment and exploration of it. But, we should never sacrifice our relationships and callings at the altar of vanity, lest we lie on our deathbeds in want of pages in the story we missed because we exerted too much time and energy trying to “get it all in.” Believe me, as I sit here writing this, I’m writing this to myself.
When our last grain of sand on this tiny planet washes into the sea of eternity, and if that tide comes upon us suddenly with no explanation, our little golden lists won’t matter. Nobody will remember us for the homes we lived in or the cars we drove or the vacations we went on. We will be remembered for our passion, they way we loved, the way we lived, how we used our talents, our laughter, our tears, and the subjects of our conversations. In the end, that will be our gift to the world.