Living out a bucket list is not as much about the items on the list as it as about being open to – and inviting – adventure. It is about being transformed into an adventurer.
On Wednesday, my husband’s grandmother died. A spunky Brit with a quick tongue, she lived 99 full years. Grandma Billie, as we called her, came to the U.S. many decades ago as a war bride and young mother, yet still spoke with a British accent to her last day. She had two long marriages, travelled extensively, and took care of herself and Grandpa with minimal help until only a few years ago. She made us laugh often and made it her objective to teach my three girls how to brew a proper pot of tea, taking infinite care to show them each step and making a show of setting out her fine bone china to serve it in.
On Sunday, my 66-year-old aunt died from a progressive palsy. And while she didn’t get to have Grandma Billie’s longevity, her life was full too. She had a career in corporate America before raising my two cousins. When my cousins studied German in high school, Aunt Sandy opened their home to a German exchange student. In turn, this fostered an interest in Germany and its culture and led her and my uncle to traveling there to visit their exchange student. I also watched my aunt dive into a second career as a school librarian, where she truly thrived. She carried this love for books and reading with her everywhere, giving my girls books as gifts and inviting them on her lap to be read to.
Can two lives be summarized in two paragraphs? Hardly. But as I look at two buckets tipped over, pouring out the precious contents of memories, I see that our adventures here are simply training for adventures to come.
We can choose to live safely, going about our everyday lives – working, eating, playing. We can follow the patterns drummed out by the dominant culture that call us to stay busy, be productive, offer our kids an infinite variety of options for attainment and entertainment. Or we can dare to be adventurers. We can listen to the call to risk and be different. To try something new that issues forth from our heart’s longings. We can heed the Voice that whispers of who we were created to be. Here. And after.
Because I do believe there is more and that what awaits for those who choose to heed the voice of the One who made them is adventure upon adventure. From what I’ve been told, both Grandma Billie and Aunt Sandy were ready to go. And I like to believe that their lives came to a close in a manner like that in The Last Battle, the final book in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. Peter, Edmund, Lucy and the others are led out of the old Narnia and into the new, real Narnia, climbing mountain after mountain with the urgent cry of “Further up! Further in!” The promise to them, and I believe to us, is truer, deeper adventure than they had ever known, but for which life heretofore was always preparing them.
Which makes us all, if we choose it, adventurers in training.
Photo credit: Devils Head Fire Tower Lookout by Casey Reynolds on Flickr via CC License.