My friend Robert Ashby died age only 52 on 14th July. Robert was, among other things, John and Juliette’s brother, Sue’s brother-in-law, Riley and Conner’s uncle, and Bevil and my friend (there are many more family and friends and his dad is still alive). He lived, what some would say, is an unremarkable life. I disagree. Every life is extraordinary and precious. Some just choose to live a quieter, less materialistic life. Robert, or Bert, was one such soul, and a kind one at that.
Bert’s tragic death makes me ponder ‘The Bucket List’ and why have one. He kicked his bucket too early and had nothing on his list, other than LIVING.
Bert had secondary cancer. He fought like hell against the first, throat cancer, but it ruined his sense of taste and his appetite, not only for food but life (for a while). He was in more pain than he ever let on and his battle was brave. He fought but he couldn’t beat cancer the second time around. By the time a growth was found in his stomach there was little time left – definitely no time to tick anything off a stupid bucket list, let alone write one.
It gives new meaning to ‘time is precious’. Bert never married, didn’t have children, hadn’t travelled widely to tick these things off a list. The things he could tick of were milder, less ambitious but no less worthy of a list. Let’s not call it a ‘Bucket List’ because it’s cliché, and Bert didn’t do cliché.
Here is a down-to-earth ‘Bert List’:
- To enjoy my teens, playing football, fishing and chasing girls (because you never know if you’ll die early).
- To go out bush for a while and be self-sustained – finding my happy place.
- To have a four-legged best friend.
- To live a peaceful existence not bothering anyone.
- To fish as many days as possible.
- To enjoy beers and the occasional happy weed (medicinal of course) with good mates.
- To love my family unconditionally and to have that in return.
- To thank anyone who helps me through ill-health by gestures as much as words.
- To leave a lasting, unique impression, especially for my nephews & nieces.
- To say goodbye when I kick the bucket (be it a twitching eye if I’m not awake).
Bert ticked off all the above. Yes, it’s a simple, but no less important list than skydiving, running marathons, trips to exotic destinations, painting masterpieces or writing a novel. This is ‘Bert’s List’, a closer to the heart list. I’m not saying don’t dream big if there are certain things you want to do in life. I do. Bert was all the more special because he didn’t need to. He was a humble, sweet, affable man with few wants. He didn’t want a big, grand bucket list. He wouldn’t have wanted to compete with anyone’s idea of life. Some bucket lists are just created to beat other people’s lists, not to find real joy. Bert’s list is not materialistic. It doesn’t require wealth. One thing it needed was health.
Maybe the best list to create is one while you’re healthy and since you never know when that will be taken away, do one that is for the next six months or year, not till the end of your time. So, let’s stop calling it a ‘Bucket List’ and all create our own ‘Bert’s List’.
Here’s one I wish Bert had been able to write and tick off, if only he’d had years, not days:
- To live longer and see my family and friends more often.
- To live without pain and not rely on happy weed.
- To watch my nephews play footy and grow a few inches taller (at least Riley. Conner you can stop for a bit and let Riley be the BIG brother).
- To fish as many days as possible.
- To drink beer with friends and enjoy the taste again.
- To find a loving partner to kiss me goodbye when I die.
- To be healthy enough to grow vegies, have chooks and fish, fish & fish.
- To appreciate each new day and enjoy each moment and get outside of my room frequently.
- To smile often.
- To never have to say goodbye.
Don’t worry Bert number 10 can be ticked off. Your story and picture will be in cyberspace forever online because of this blog posting. If more people share this, the more you will live on.