I am currently sitting in a small coffee house in the Fremont section of Seattle, looking out at a cool rainy day. Since I arrived the days have been sunny and in the fifties, which the locals tell me is unusual for this time of year, but today, Seattle has reverted to form, and has become the wet, gloomy place that it is known for. And I couldn’t be happier.
Why am I happy sitting in a coffee house 2000 miles from home drinking an overpriced double espresso? Because this is a bucket list trip. Travis got a job here back in May, and it’s been my wish to get here not just to see his lovely face, but also to check out Seattle and the surrounding area. I’ve never been to this part of the country, and I am always ready to go somewhere I’ve never been. Now, I can check Seattle off the list.
Seattle is a beautiful, weird, quirky city. Walking around downtown where Travis works is both cool and interesting. I’ve done some of the touristy things like checking out Pike Place Market and the Space Needle, but I’ve also been adventurous in walking the rest of the city. Fremont is very cool, as is Queen Anne, the neighborhood Travis lives in. The people have been friendly. I think being alone most of the time on my travels has made me more talkative to strangers. The barista here asked me where I was from, and when I replied Grand Rapids, Michigan, he informed me that he was spending Christmas and the holidays with his grandparents in St. Ignace. And he is not the first person with Michigan roots I have encountered here in Washington. The are quite a few expatriates from the Mitten here in the Pacific Northwest.
Getting some bucket list things done are important for a person like me with stage 4 cancer and a life with an expiration date. None of us are promised tomorrow, so, if you get the chance to get on an airplane to see a loved one or check out a new place in this world, you take it.
But, over the past couple of years, I’ve learned something about my bucket list. I still want to go to France and see where the “Boys of Pointe du Hoc” landed on Omaha Beach. I still want to take my family to Maui for an amazing Hawaiian vacation. I hope to do both of those things in the next couple of years, while I’m still healthy enough to do them. But this journey has taught me something about bucket lists. We can have bucket list moments everyday.
One of the advantages of a cancer diagnosis is that it lets you see the world and life as a finite experience. This whole thing is going to end for all of us someday, but cancer makes that ending more concrete, more touchable. Because of that, it has made me realize that life isn’t just about doing the things you want to do, the bucket list stuff like skydiving or running a marathon. Life consists of everyday stuff, that, every once in awhile, yields moments of awesomeness, bucket list moments. It might just be holding your grandchild for the first time. Maybe it’s a good grade on a paper you weren’t expecting. Maybe it’s as simple as watching a sunset with someone you love.
When I’m walking Zoey on a cool, crisp, sunny fall day, with the sunshine streaming through the brightly colored leaves, total bucket list moment. I recently had the chance to see my favorite college football team play. The day was amazing because I was with a group of treasured friends that I have known for 40 years. Bucket list moment. When Holly and I drive somewhere for a little road trip therapy and get a good meal with an excellent craft beer, bucket list moment. This summer, because of the kindness of friends, I was able to stay in a small cottage on a lake about an hour from where I live. My friend Jim came up for a couple of days, and we talked till 3am. Bucket list moment. The next day, after he left, I was sitting by the fire, sipping on some good bourbon, Zoey curled up next to me while I was listening to Beethoven and checking out the stars, when it occurred to me that bucket list moments can occur anywhere, anytime. You don’t have to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. You don’t have to fly thousands of miles to some tropical paradise. The fact is, bucket list moments happen to us all the time, and we just have to be aware enough to recognize them when they happen. Cancer has given me that awareness.
I hope and pray that you will be able to recognize bucket list moments for yourself, because life is short and meant to be lived to its fullest. I just wish I could’ve realized that without the cancer.
Oh well. Better late than never.
Thanks for reading.