Before I die, I want to_____________________
How would you complete this sentence? It’s a good question to answer during this season of Lent, when we contemplate our own mortality and focus on what’s most important in life. Artist Candy Chang invited people to fill in this blank in a public-participation art project, which revealed something very human…
When we accept the fact that death is certain, then we think more about what it is to be alive.
This has been my own experience, knowing, since childhood, that my lifespan would be cut short by my motorneuron disease. Every spring, with its blooming daffodils and gurgling streams, was more beautiful and poignant because it could be my last. The love of my family surrounding me, upholding me, filled me with a deep sense of blessedness and gratitude. Of course, there were plenty of times when I took things for granted, became annoyed, impatient, and angrily dissatisfied. But, even in the shadow of death, or, perhaps, because of the shadow of death, I have always, always loved life.
So… How would I complete the sentence?
Before I die, I want to become the person that I was created to be.
Okay, now I know that some of you may be rolling your eyes thinking, mmph, that’s a highfalutin, easy out. But, it’s not. This quest is utterly difficult, the singular challenge of every human being. The whole of my existence, my reason for being, rests upon this sharp point. If life is pass or fail, then I don’t want to fail.
Who I Am Created to Be
I know that I was created. And I know that I was created by Someone, who knows and loves me intimately, for an infinite purpose that I can never see, so long as eyeballs are doing the looking. The truly big picture is beyond my limited understanding, but I want to take part in that picture exactly as my Creator intended. He is the Master and I am an extremely tiny but integral part of His Masterpiece. I am a masterwork in progress, if I let the Master work. Therein lies every decision of my life.
And, perhaps…. Perhaps, this is my answer because I don’t yet know what I have been created to specifically do….
I could write that I want to become a published author before I die. People would understand that and not accuse me of being too lofty or esoteric. It’s true that I would like to be published. But… I also want to become a daughter who honors her parents, a sister who sympathizes and encourages, and an aunt who inspires. For everyone that I encounter in the world, I want to be a witness to truth and love and an example of mercy and joy – whether I am a published author or not. I don’t know… maybe I am meant to be published posthumously – or maybe not….
Things to Do before Dying…?
Thinking about the rich beauty of the small wonders of life, I can say that I would quite like to taste Baked Alaska before I die… or listen to an exquisite string quartet in an intimate setting… or travel to see – no. You know, there really isn’t any place in the world that calls me strongly enough to make a bucket list. Especially not with all of the logistics involved in getting me anywhere – me, who is physically as weak as waste, bound to either wheelchair or bed, unable to even fly on a plane… I don’t want to travel to Rome, Nazareth, or Marrakesh strongly enough to try to meet that challenge. Besides, we could all make a list of things that we would like to enjoy – but my life doesn’t hinge upon those things.
Yes, people matter so much more. And what matters is not seeing people, meeting people, or having people – like “having” a spouse or children or employees – but loving people. This, to me, is most pointedly revealed by the person who filled in the public art project with the desire to teach one particular person how to read.
Actively loving. That matter matters. For, though it is not exclusive of matter, it transcends.
Love never fails.
Beyond death, love endures and is the greatest. I have been loved into being. I am made by Love, for Love, in order to Love. I don’t want to let Love down. Before I die, I want to become the person that I was created to be.
That’s the point.
Life is pass or fail. Love is pass or fail.
I don’t want to fail Love.
… Hopefully, as I strive to live my life daily mindful of the Love that binds me, I will figure out what it is that I’m specifically supposed to do in order to become the person that I was created to be. Perhaps it doesn’t need to be any more specific than reaching out to others with all of the honesty/wisdom/forgiveness/truth/sympathy/guidance/protection/encouragement/love that I have to give.
So, now I invite you, dear reader, to try to complete the sentence for yourself by adding a comment:
Before I die, I want to_____________________.
© 2016 Christina Chase
More on ” life is pass or fail” in next week’s post. If you liked this week’s post, you may also like When I Die
1] see more on this public art project at http://candychang.com/work/before-i-die-in-nola/