Tuesday, August 05, 2008

My Bucket List

We talk a lot about death without mentioning the word death. Maybe we imagine him a person who will come right away whenever his name is called. We have dozens of expressions for people who died and are dying and will die, but the word death is almost never mentioned.

Americans also have this bad habit. They mention "the deceased" and those who are going to "pass away", talk how they may not still "be around" some time. They "sacrifice" animals in scientific experiments and if their pet is very sick they may have to "put him to sleep". People "lose battles" with diseases. Murder, assassination, abortion, execution, euthanasia, doom, fatality, mortality.... all these are expressions of death.

And there's another one... kicking the bucket. The movie The Bucket List talks about two men with a terminal illness. They made a list of things they always wanted to do but couldn't get to. They called this list the Bucket List and they started trying to do whatever time allowed them before "kicking the bucket".

Before I traveled to the US, I made my own bucket list. I was leaving almost my entire extended family of hundreds of people behind for a minimum of five years (now it's longer), and because of very tough visa regulations I knew that I wouldn't be able to return home during this period. I made this bucket list in my mind which was a little different from the one in the movie since I wasn't expecting to "be with the Lord" anytime soon. It was of those people close to me whom I expected to die while I was away, a list of those who I won't be able to lay eyes on before they die. The smiling I-am-traveling-for-a-bit was actually the very last goodbye I said to many of them.

My Bucket List was a bad one. It just taught me a good lesson: death is highly unpredictable. It picks people when you least expect it. It takes away the most charming and the most alive. It chases those who are very optimistic of life, telling them they shouldn't have placed so much hope in something they were not going to enjoy for too long. When disease struck they fought it with every breath they took because they could not take their next breath for granted, then eventually dying before they could start living.

When I knew the end was coming, I would call very formally wishing them the best of luck, and a speedy a recovery from this although I knew they would not recover. They also knew they wouldn't but we won't talk about it. I wished I could tell them that it was great knowing them and that I was proud to be in the same family with them, but I couldn't. I wish I would be able to tell them to cheer up since death may be the end of one life but the beginning of another better one, that it probably looks better on the other side, that death ends lives but not relationships, and ask them to save me a seat up there, but I couldn't. At the end I would just tell them to hopefully see you if I visit Jordan next year, inshalla- inshalla, and I knew I wouldn't, and they knew they wouldn't.

I decided to mentally burn my bucket list. I should have never made it. I don't want anyone to be on it and I don't want to be on anyone's list! Death is too big to be placed on lists.


sophia said...

"Death is too big to be placed on lists"
100 % true.
As I understood from your story, that you had few relatives who were diagnosed with Cancers or Leukemias.
I have gone through the same experience, when my late uncle was diagnosed with CML, He was in a bad condition, and I felt that he wouldn't be able to live long to see his children grow.
I sat beside his bed, and started reminding him of the old days when he helped me, and in an 'indirect' way thanked him.
Wow .. this is bloody life.. we make plans and dreams for the coming 5-10 years, but not everything goes the way we want.

Tallouza said...

Hareega, I hope whatever prompted you to write this post is only an insight or a passing idea. I hope that all your loved ones are well and healthy. I know it is difficult to be so far away from loved ones. If character is made out of blocks, being away from home for a noble reason is probably one of most significant character building blocks.

caroline said...

now i got depressed bec i just arrived in the US and u made me think of all the people i left behind:(death is a surprising event and I have no idea which is better to have time to prepare for it and make lists or just pass away suddenly?!but these r depressing thoughts and we all think about them once in a while..the trick is to get reimmersed in treating patients again and taking care of other dying patients...this deletes all these ideas amazingly,at least for me...

Batoul A. said...

"a list of those who I won't be able to lay eyes on before they die." This gets to me every time out! Goodbyes always become bittersweet as I embrace them in meaning "it maybe my last chance" it burns a little bit inside me every time. ykhaleelak 7babak Hareega :)

The Observer said...

Death is too big and beyond my comprehension! Denial doesn't help here either! Maybe surrender is my only choice :(

Hareega said...

sophia.. yep but that shouldn't stop you from planning 50 years ahead. I'm thinking if I'll be healthy enough to make it to the 2050 World Cup Final

tallouza.. thanks a lot for the wishes. Living alone far away from your family is definitely character-building, I agree with that!

caroline.. it does delete these ideas, the only thing you'll be thinking of is when the hell are you gonna leave work and how fast an you grab somethign to eat on the way back home. What are you doing in the US have u started residency?

batoul.. same to you, thank you!

observer... yes surrender it is, but with some dignity

sophia said...

Are you planning to be the national coach of the Jordanian Team, and let them qualify to the Final of 2050 ??? !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wow .. you are very optimistic :-)
hehehe ...

caroline said...

it is so true,at the end of the day i just want to run and eat:)lol.
yup i have started residency a month ago...

Yazan said...

You do have a point, death is random and unpredictable. It also seems to be unfair. But at the end of the day, that's what life is about.
And making lists about that wouldn't help. It would just make it harder on oneself when things go 'the other way around'.

Yet again, I can see where you were coming from when you wrote that list. I guess if I was in your shoes, I would've probably made the same thing. For someone who is leaving to a different environment and surroundings making such a list would make one think he is control and that everything would be alright.

Anyways, I hope you wrote that post because of a random thought. I hope all your 100 relatives are well and living.

Zeina said...

Beautifully written.... death sure ends life but not relationships.... who would have thought last year that we'd be here today?
For the record, and just because I've decided to live each day to the fullest, I here say that I'm so honored and proud to have you in my life cousin :) love u!

Hareega said...

thank you zonzon, I'm honored and proud too :)
I still prefer to stay alive

bella said...

This is a very sad and touching post :(

May God have mercy on all your deceased loved ones, and may you have to say minimal goodbyes in your time away from your family!

Hareega said...

thank you bella, likewise