There is an episode of Little House on the Prairie where a terminally ill boy’s dying wish is to see the ocean; he paints the ocean on canvas but has never seen it. When Laura and Albert hear of their friend’s diagnosis, they conspire to get him to the California coast by running away and hopping a train. The last scene shows the boy throwing off his blanket and blissfully running into the waves (all in slow motion, of course). These days we talk openly about having “bucket lists”—wishes or goals to achieve before we “kick the bucket.” Somehow we avoid the topic of death while doing so, but we do like to dream of all the things we’d like to do, hoping there will be time. Yesterday I ran across an article written by a mother of a severely ill child called “A Bucket List for my Baby.” In it, she writes,
I sat silently as a montage of all the things I hoped for my daughter scrolled through my head: I wanted her to smile, to talk, to ride a bike, to make a friend, to get married, to have her own daughter. I wanted her to have a life. I was making a bucket list for my daughter — a list of the most basic, most simple, and most beautiful experiences you can have in life.
We never made a bucket list for Caemon because we didn’t believe he was going to die until he did. He was on the list for Make A Wish to see Jack Johnson perform, but obviously he didn’t survive to receive the wish. It’s a painful place go emotionally, thinking of all the things Caemon will never do: he won’t have a fourth birthday or fly in an airplane, go to prom or drive a car, or most of those basic, simple things I would have wished for him. I prefer instead to remember those things that Caemon did get to do, those items that should go on his bucket list because he accomplished and experienced a lot for a 3 year old. Before he died, Caemon
- Took a road trip to the Grand Canyon
- Went camping and toasted marshmallows over an open fire
- Fell in love
- Ran through sprinklers and learned to throw water balloons
- Caught a snake
- Went to school
- Learned to cook
- Got a job (not that the hospital ever paid him, but he did work!)
- Saw the ocean and played buckets on the beach
- Overcame his fears
- Pet a goat
- Read the classics: Seuss, Silverstein, Carle
- Laughed openly and often
- Planted a garden
- Learned to jazz clap
- Met a real, live dwarf caiman
- Played in a band
- Saw and hugged the redwoods
- Made friends
- Inspired a tattoo craze
There are so many things we will never get to do with him, but while he was here, we did a lot. We danced and sang and read piles of books. We laughed, acted silly, and made up games. We cooked and gardened, and went on adventures. We snuggled, kissed, and hugged him and said “I love you” often. We didn’t necessarily live every day like it would be his last, but we lived every day knowing what we had and treating it reverently, cherishing this precious being we had waited so long for. To lose that life that we love is indescribable, but I don’t regret one second of it. We didn’t need a list to remind us to live fully; if there was something we wanted to do, we found a way to do it. I hope that wherever Caemon is, he had fun while he was with us and that he was happy. I know I was.
16 thoughts on “if he had a bucket list”
I had a big ugly cry about the Jack Johnson Wish, then a big smile as I read Caemon’s list. Pet a goat is my favorite.
I don’t know you but I have followed Caemon’s story. Your blogs are so beautifully written and they never fail to leave me crying by the end. Your perspective and strength is so awe inspiring. Keep fighting. Sending prayers your way.
Beautiful. And beautiful perspective. I can’t help but think that Caemon is is still linked to you and enjoying your love and happily awaiting your eventual reunion…
I’m so sorry for your loss. I haven’t been online to comment, but I shed a few tears when I read the posts around his passing. My favorite’s on Caemon’s list above are: Caught a Snake & Read the Classics.
He had an amazing life. It was shorter than some, but so full.
Thank you for sharing your love and blessings. You could add to the bucket that he entered and remains in the hearts of many who never got to actually meet him, but came to love him just the same.
That is a beautiful list from a beautiful life. I know many adults who haven’t done as much, and certainly not with as much enthusiasm as your family.
Of course as soon as I published this, I thought of a dozen more items I could include, like
sat in a fire truck
saw the blue angels
learn to swim
ride a tricycle
program an iv pump
He lived a great life and most importantly a life full of love. Many people never feel love even if they live to be 100. My Thoughts & Prayers continue to be with you.
What a perfect life he had! How many people have done all those things! It took me over 50 years to do a Grand Canyon Road Trip – little bugger!
Jazz Clap? See, I have no idea what that is to even put it on a list of things I should do! xx
Love love love this list especially toasting marshmallows, catching a snake and had a job a hospital. How many three year olds have jobs at hospitals? Curious George managed to cause chaos at the hospital, but never quite got a job. What a beautiful list. May it continue to grow as yourselves, friends and family remember and add in more and more special moments.
I saw the following in our local newspaper this weekend. It was a memorial for a little three-year old who died in a car accident. You are doing all of this. Bless you.
“You can shed tears because he is gone, or you can smile because he lived. You can close your eyes and pray that he’ll come back, or you can open your eyes and see all he has left. Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him, or you can be full of the love you shared. You can remember only that he is gone, or you can cherish all the memory you shared and let him live on. You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back. Or you can do what he would have wanted; smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”
Love, Aunt Joanne
Absolutely inspiring! He sure did accomplish many things Professor Simmons. He was very much loved and although he left to soon he did live a full happy life with the both of you. That is evident.