What started out as a way to process personal grief reasonated so deeply with the human heart that it became a Movement sweeping the Nation.
It is now here in Placerville.
“Before I Die” was unveiled last night, and you can find it in the middle of Main Street on the Robinsons Pharmacy window. As I journeyed Downtown for the unveiling, I expected it to be a cool idea; what I didn’t expect was to be so profoundly moved. Little by little, people joined the celebration as the canvas concealing this interactive art project was revealed. A chalkboard confronted us with row after row of “Before I die I want to __________” boldly painted across its face. The blank line and container of multicolored chalk beaconed our entries.
The crowd sat there, transfixed. I don’t presume to know what everyone was feeling as I imagine it was deeply personal. I only have my own reaction to act as a guide.
I felt challenged to come up with a monumental answer. (What would the right answer be? What would people think was meaningful?). I quickly threw that out of my thought as I knew this wasn’t a performance. It wasn’t about other people…this challenge was asking us all to look inside our Bucket List and set as a goal those desires hiding in our heart. And we all have lots of them! Big and small. Some meaningful, some just plain fun!
After I sorted through my first reaction, I found I felt naked…that I was bearing my soul for judgement. (“Gee, that’s a pretty shallow goal.” Or “Oh, that’s wonderful!”). Once again, I kicked myself. It’s amazing how often we need to shift through our need to have other people validate us. And the ironic thing is, when we are authentic, when we are willing to be human, vulnerable, fallible, it’s then that we find connection with one another.
One by one, the chalk called us and we bravely put our hand to the board. The range of desires was moving…
One person wanted to kiss under the moon.
One wanted to hike the John Muir Trail.
A little boy wanted to learn to ride a bike.
Many yearned to travel.
One aspired to raise someone from the dead
Another wanted to walk his girls down the aisle.
And there was one entry that brought me to my knees….
It was a lovely, mature woman that wrote in bold, hot pink letters that she wanted to “experience true love.” My heart broke for her that she hadn’t had that deep privilege yet. My spirit celebrated her for the courage to so boldly pen that most profound desire. And my immediate prayer for her was that love would come crashing into her life, sweep her off her feet and envelope her with passion, tenderness and joy. I will continue to hold that in my heart for her.
“Before I Die” will be on Main Street waiting for you. Write all over it. Spill out the wishes of your heart. It will be photographed to preserve the answers, then it will be erased to await a new dose of desires, filling it up again and again.
The wall filled up quickly last night and I was moved by the commonality that connects us all. Our desires are really not all that different. We want love. We want adventure. We want connection. We want new experiences. We want to learn new things.
We want to fully experience the journey of being human.
And my desire, you ask? (Don’t judge me). I want to go to Italy with the man I love. I want to eat spaghetti in San Marco’s square. I want to share Dennis’ wonder and amazement when he sees Michelangelo’s “David” for the first time. I want to be moved to tears together in the Sistine Chapel. And I want to kiss under the moonlight as we stroll along the Amalfi Coast.
And someday we’re going to do that because I have now written it on a wall on Main Street.
The chalk is waiting for you.
(This interactive community art project is sponsored by Debbie Cheevers and Janice Curtin of Marshall Hospital’s Advanced Illness Management Program, Eric & Moira Magneson of Magnus Construction, Dennis Thomas of Robinsons Pharmacy and Snowline Hospice. Our deepest thanks to you all…this project is so cool!)