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Living and dying, bucket list, Dr. Marisa van Niekerk, Educational Psychologist Midstream Centurion Pretoria

Living and dying – my bucket list

Living and dying – my bucket list

Here is a poem about living and dying, that really is quite inspirational.

TRAVELERS

You know the lucky thing about my hip replacement?

she asked, not waiting for the answer.

It made me think about advance directives,

my living will, how I’d like to die.

 

Yeah, he said, her colleague

who chatted amiably with death

each day, like two old men

playing checkers in the park.

I know what you mean.

 

This is how it is

with the nurses, doctors, therapists

who walk down the halls of dying

as through the home of a relative,

pausing to leaf through the Geographic,

or straighten a family photograph on the wall.

 

They have earned their ease

the hard way,

learned to reach through the bramble

to find the fruit, add weight

to the rusty pail.

 

They have not so much grown inured

to pain as they have learned to savor it,

taste the sweetness of the grapefruit’s bite,

feel the glow of a day’s hard toil.

 

In the end, we need them

as we need seasoned travelers

met in an unfamiliar land.

They greet us on the steep trail,

in the twisting streets, point the way

to a good taverna, trace the path home.

Most of all, they help us

parse the dark syllables in our hearts,

bare them,

 

and seek cleansing

in the gathering storm.

– Robert A. Neimeyer, (Earl Rogers 2007: xix)

 

As an educational psychologist who specializes in trauma therapy from the ages of two to 92+, I am confronted with death on a daily basis. In my previous article about death and dying, I’ve discussed death as a taboo subject for most of us. People feel uncomfortable when “death” comes to the surface and they will rather change the subject. Life and death are two sides of one coin, and what we don’t always realize is that the one can’t go without the other one. Life and death, living and dying are intertwined.

Living and dying, bucket list, Dr. Marisa van Niekerk, Educational Psychologist Midstream Centurion Pretoria

How do I want to be remembered after my death

Take five minutes and write down a few words about how you want your family, loved ones and friends to remember you. It can be words like fun, patience, always looking at the bright side of life, reading them a story or taking turns to read a book (even when they are in high school) and more. Now write down at least five things that you have achieved in life that you are proud of. (This may be a challenge for many people, as it is much easier to focus on things that we haven’t achieved). Achievements will differ from person to person. For one it might be to be a patient person, for somebody else it might be a diploma or a degree, for another person it might be to encourage others, to be an entrepreneur, to be able to live in the moment, to have a loving family, etcetera.

Living and dying, bucket list, Dr. Marisa van Niekerk, Educational Psychologist Midstream Centurion Pretoria

Living and dying: My bucket list

Now it’s time to write down five things that you still would like to achieve – a bucket list. This bucket list will add to the things about how your family and loved ones will remember you. You are still alive and you still have a chance. Do you only want people to remember you for having the cleanest house, being a very strict parent (without having time to sit down and listen to your kids), having many degrees (but spent most time in your office, because you are too busy to have fun with your family) or will your choice be to just set aside your responsibilities and chores for a while and play in the sand with your kids, having a lot of laughter and jumping on the trampoline, having a tea break in your beautiful garden, playing in the mud, reading story books, walking around the block, having a picnic in your garden, listening to your teenager’s music without making negative remarks and share your music with them, go cycling and your list can go on and on.

Living and dying, creating memories, Dr. Marisa van Niekerk, Educational Psychologist Midstream Centurion Pretoria

 

I still have a chance for a bucket list

It is in your hands to be and still become the person you want to be remembered after your death. Live your life as if there will be no tomorrow, no next chance to have more patience, to say sorry, to put down your responsibilities for a while to have fun. By making the choice to live life, to teach yourself and your children how to live life, how to see the blue sky, the flowers, how to be on the lookout for and to appreciate the small blessings of every day (birds in the garden, the value of a smile, friendliness with the people around us, patience, being a fun person to live with, being blessed with good health, having warm water, enough food, a beautiful house, a caring family and more) you will also learn how to die. You can only face death if you have learned to live life to its fullest. Life is too short to allow daily chores, work, responsibilities, to keep you away from living (as you are dying if you aren’t living). Teach yourself and your children how to life life to the fullest, in spite of COVID-19, in spite of many uncertainties, in spite of not having enough, in spite of not having a perfect life. Take what you have and make your life a living life and not a dying life.

Living and dying, bucket list, Dr. Marisa van Niekerk, Educational Psychologist Midstream Centurion Pretoria

 

Do you like a challenge? This one is not for the faint of heart, but maybe also for them

Write a memorial letter about yourself, which contains how you want to be remembered. What inspiring music you want to be played on your funeral, maybe you have a special saying that people will always remember. What photo’s would you like to be shown of you on a slide show? Certainly not photo’s of cleaning the house with a grumpy face, of sitting behind your desk, of preparing food with a silence around you that could be cut with a knife. Yes, of course we all have our chores (read why children need to have chores on my Facebook page) and responsibilities – it’s part of life. But do you have photos for your slide show where you are having fun, laugh a lot, play a lot lot, dance like no one is watching! If you don’t have these kind of photo’s, then today is the time to start collecting them, to print it out, to put it on your refrigerator or a special memory clip board, where you and your family can add new photo’s, at least once a month. Life and death, two inseparable sides of the same coin. Only by living life to the fullest, you will be able to learn about peaceful dying. Take up the challenge and make your bucket list today.

Living and dying, creating memories, Dr. Marisa van Niekerk, Educational Psychologist Midstream Centurion Pretoria


Photo credits:
Thanks to the following photographers for their amazing images used in this post!
List: Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash
Mom and kid: Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash
Dad and kids at beach: Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash
Photo memories: Photo by sarandy westfall on Unsplash
Campfire: Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash
Miles of memories: Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash
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