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Alfred M. Albers

Author & Magician

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The Bucket List

By Al Albers



            As I stared at a blank sheet of paper, I thought about a saying that is quickly becoming trendy in everyday conversation: “I can scratch that off my bucket list.”  And what makes it out of the ordinary is that it’s being said more so by teens and people in their mid-twenties than older folks.  I don’t know why this seems to be the rage, but it is.  Which begs the question: Is this going to be a short-lived fad like lava lamps and pet rocks?


The phrase “bucket list” was popularized by the 2007 movie, The Bucket List.  It’s a story about two terminally ill men who begin an around-the-world trip with a wish list of things to do before they die.  To me, a bucket is a pail; something that’s used by children to make sand castles at the beach; to hold, or in some places to store, water; to collect trash; or to carry garden tools or other odds and ends.  A bucket is not something that I’d associate with death.


It was time to visit Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  When my search turned up the aforementioned movie, I leaned back in my chair.  What is the metaphor between a bucket list and death, I wondered?  Seconds later, it hit me … kick the bucket.


According to Wikipedia, “To kick the bucket is an English idiom that is defined as 'to die' in the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785).  It is considered a euphemistic, informal, or slang term.  Its origin remains unclear, though there have been several theories.  One of those is that the idiom comes from a method of execution such as hanging, or perhaps suicide, in the Middle Ages.  A noose is tied around the neck while standing on an overturned bucket.  When the pail is kicked away, the victim is hanged.”


It’s incongruous that an axiom that represents death in a horrific way is peculiarly related to an aphorism that accentuates one’s personal accomplishments while living.  I understand the correlation; it’s just that the word bucket is a poor word choice.  But I’m an optimist and it’s not about whether the bucket is half empty or half full; it’s whether there is something in the bucket at all.


The soul of a worthy bucket list is subjective to the person creating it.  It should be an itemized list of your wishes and dreams; that is, things that have a profound purpose and meaning.  It should not, however, be a list of everyday tasks.  Some examples are overcoming fears, achieving goals, realizing dreams and even simple pleasures.  The idea is to create a legacy that lasts beyond your lifetime.


So how young is too young to have a bucket list, or does it really not matter?  In my opinion, it doesn’t.  What does matter is having the mindset to live your life to the absolute fullest.  To wait until you’re standing in front of death’s door and then asking to be given a few more years, is to have squandered all that life had to offer.  There’s no reason why you should settle for “what may have been;” instead, make your list and as you cross one thing off, add something new.  Something that leaves no personal dream unfulfilled.


Don’t have a bucket list?  There’s no better time to put one together.  You’ll quickly find that as you begin crossing off long-term goals and relish in the satisfaction of having completed something difficult, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t started sooner.


I’m a few hours away from crossing off one more of my goals: To finish the model railroad layout I started building for my two grandsons, seven months ago.  I’ve never done anything like this before and I can honestly say it was a labor of love.  I’m looking forward to their next visit so the three of us can sit on some stools and run a miniature railroad for a few hours.  And while that may not sound as exciting as watching a newly released action movie while sitting in an air-conditioned theater on a scorching weekend afternoon, in all honesty, I can’t think of anything better than spending time with my grandsons.  After all, it’s about creating a bonding legacy that will last well beyond my lifetime.