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What's on your bucket list?

Published April 30. 2011 09:01AM

I ask myself the same questions many older people ponder: What did I not do with my life that I would like to do? In other words, what's on my bucket list?

It's a short list with only one or two things on it: Return to Italy for another authentic Italian vacation; and, spend every day having fun. If I can't have fun all day, then I at least want to do one thing that I love.

That's it. My entire "bucket list" is only two lines. Seems to me I should be able to come up with more than that. Either I lack imagination or, I'm simply so content I don't long to do more.

I think the latter is true. It's hard to dream of new adventures or yearn to be elsewhere when my everyday life is so much fun. I keep looking around me, declaring, "I can't believe I'm so blessed to be living these precious, golden days."

I've only lived in Florida five years so I'm still in awe of my surroundings. When I'm outside with the sun warming my face as I listen to the birds thrill a sweet song, I couldn't wish for anything more.

When I'm swimming in my pool, (or doing what passes for swimming) I often have to pause to say, "Thank you, God. I can't believe I'm here doing this."

So, when I'm this content, it's hard to devise a bucket list of things I want to do before I die. But I'm still intrigued by the concept.

The term "bucket list" gained popularity after the 2007 Jack Nicholson movie. People were inspired by the story of two terminally ill men escaping from a cancer ward to do things on their wish list before they died.

The movie encouraged people to think about their own bucket list. There is even a web site,, that encourages people to put together their own special to-do list, claiming making a list crystallizes ideas and turns vague notions into a lifetime plan of action.

That same website also allows people to share their bucket list with others who will hold them accountable for turning a wish into reality.

There are some interesting stories on the site written by people who have checked off items on their bucket list. I found some of the stories inspiring, just as they were meant to be.

One woman talked about caring for her terminally ill husband. He made a list of things he wanted to do before he died and they set off to do as many as possible. When he died, she realized she needed to start living her own bucket list.

I like to ask people "What's on your bucket list?"

My friend Ralph said he just accomplished the top thing on his bucket list - quitting his job while he still has the good health needed to enjoy retirement. In this shaky economy, he knew he was taking a risk to retire early but he also knew it was something he had to do.

"I've served in Vietnam, I've been exposed to Agent Orange and I already have had one serious case of cancer," he said.

"My brother-in-law kept saying we might only have another decade to enjoy life. It's time to do it."

Ralph has been retired now for almost a year and says he has never regretted it. "Ever since I stopped working, I find life is like one ongoing gift I get to unwrap every day," he says.

I like his newfound appreciation of life.

Ralph and Jeanne, his life partner, are now doing some of the things they always wanted to do but never had the time. Jeanne turned a top item on their wish list into reality by buying a tent and camping gear.

"I've traveled around the world but I haven't seen much of this country. One item on my bucket list is to camp out at national parks around the country," she said.

When they told me they were going to sleep on beaches and in a tent at various campgrounds, I worried their sixty-something bodies wouldn't be happy with sleeping on the ground night after night.

I was wrong. Both said their first camping trip to St. Augustine was a wonderful experience. They will soon leave for a cross-country camping trip and they want to do more of that simple kind of traveling.

Jeanne said her bucket list always consisted of other exotic countries she wanted to visit. So she traveled a lot and crossed country after country off her bucket list.

She still wants to visit China and Ralph wants to go back to Vietnam to see the area where he once served in the military.

But most of all, both say the top thing now on their bucket list is enjoying everyday life.

A lot of people share that aspiration.

My friends Martha and Hugh have also done a lot of trips abroad and have had many memorable adventures.

But they don't have to travel far to find adventure. What I love about them is that they make everyday life an adventure, doing things like camping out at beautiful but remote settings and kayaking to new destinations.

"We don't sit around longing to do something," said Hugh. "When we think of something we want to do, we do it."

"Do it now" might very well be the three words that should be included on any bucket list.

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