Bucket Lists for Your Family

Post written by Home and Family columnist Beth LaMie.

You’ve probably seen or heard about the recent Rob Reiner movie called The Bucket List with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. In case you haven’t, take a moment to check out its trailer on You Tube here.

The premise of the movie is that two older gentlemen each have terminal cancer. While in the hospital, Morgan Freeman’s character recalled a class assignment from a college professor to make a list of all the things they wanted to do in their lives before they died, i.e., kick the bucket.

Jack Nicholson’s character, a wealthy but irascible old man, was intrigued by the list Morgan started. They decided to take off together on the vacation of a lifetime to drive racecars, go skydiving, and see all the things in the world they had missed. Of course, by the end of the movie, they each acknowledged the importance of family over everything else.

Since seeing the movie when it first came out, I think of that list each time I lose a friend or family member. Did they accomplish their goals? I’m reminded of how important it is to make the most of every single day. We never know how much time we will have on earth. So how do we keep our lives in perspective?

Create a Bucket List for yourself or your family. It can help you prioritize all your hopes, dreams, and plans for the future. You can also include some of the lovely inspirational messages, such as: Stop to smell the roses;  Don’t count your days, make your days count; Miracles happen to those who believe in them; Never settle for anything less than your best; Count your blessings, not your troubles; Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Start making your Bucket List today—you don’t need to wait until you are dying. You can easily include both long-term and short-term goals. You’ll discover things to do with your individual family, your larger family entity, your spouse, and even by yourself. Discussing your list with your family and friends allows everyone to not only participate in the planning aspects, but also to share in the satisfaction of their accomplishment.

Think about what experiences you want to share with your family. If you’ve always dreamed of taking them to Alaska, the Grand Canyon, or Disney World, put it on your list. When goals are written down, they are much more likely to happen than if they remain a nebulous idea. Too often, people talk about wanting to do something “one of these days”, but by not setting specific goals, those dreams just fade away.

Travel adventures are a wonderful way to keep your family connected at any age, but they don’t need to become elaborate affairs. A night camping out in the backyard with a pup tent and roasting marshmallows over an open fire can create vivid memories for young children that will last a lifetime. Spending an hour in the backyard watching the stars with a loved one is another delightful way to end a day.

When you write your Bucket List, sprinkle in a variety of goals that can be more easily achieved, such as a walk in the woods, a trip to the zoo, flying a kite, taking a family bike trip, building a birdhouse together, or reading a favorite book. Doing so will establish family traditions that can be repeated many times and built upon each year.

As a Personal Historian, I encourage you to preserve all your precious memories in some way. Talking about them is always great, but you can keep them more permanently by recording them in crayon drawings, in photographs, on an audio recorder or a camcorder, in a scrapbook, or in a lovely memory box with souvenirs of your activities.

Another idea to add to your Bucket List is to write your Ethical Will and update it on a regular basis, say every five years, or after milestone events. An ethical will is a love letter or non-legal legacy to your family, where you share your personal values, your heritage and family stories, the life lessons you’ve learned, advice to share, and your hopes for the future.

Regardless of how elaborate your Bucket List becomes, make the most of every day. Someday, when you may know your days are numbered, you don’t want to say you wish you had done something. Do it now, before it’s too late.

Do you have a Bucket List? If so, what types of items does it contain? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

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