Lessons from “The Bucket List”

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I still remember the first day I heard the phrase, “kick the bucket.” It must have been 1991 during Mr Ojumu’s English Language class while I was in JS 3B in Federal Government College,Idoani. As much as he tried to explain that it was an idiomatic expression, I just couldn’t understand how buckets could be related to death. Come on! Buckets were very sensitive things to talk about while I was in that school because it was the most itinerant item — making it’s way from the original owner through many “borrowers” and then back to the owner one morning as he takes his shower in our characteristic open bathroom. So, you must appreciate the silence that visited the class when Mr Ojumu drew that particular expression about kicking the bucket from his entire vocabulary.

Seventeen years later, I watched the movie, “The Bucket List.” Trust me, I wouldn’t have thought anything of the movie but for the you-just-can’t-ignore-them actors, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. When I saw the movie title, I remembered Mr Ojumu and my last bucket at FGC Idoani (it was stolen but I had told my mum that I would bring it back home soon). Other movies fought for my attention, and time hasn’t proved very abundant since I turned the first calendar page this month. Sometime earlier today, I saw the movie. As expected, Jack and Morgan didn’t disappoint me but there was more to The Bucket List.

You should see the movie yourself but allow me to highlight three major lessons. First, the bucket list (the duo’s list of what they wanted to do before passing on a few months later) itself reminds me of my auto accident in October 2005. When the car decided to stop its random dance, I looked around to check that everyone was okay and stood a few meters away remembering how everything I’d wanted to do with my life played through my mind within that instant when I thought the end had come. I don’t have a “bucket list” in anticipation of a terminated life but I always keep a list of what needs to be done. Just as the duo ticked off after each experience, I have a few ticks gone — but a lot more work lay ahead. Ask yourself, “if I had only 3 more years to live, what would you have on your to-do (or “bucket”) list?” Then, go for it — and make another list after those 3 years come to an end.

Then, the speech by Jack’s character at his new-found friend’s funeral service. He said, “[h]is last few months were my best. He changed my life and I didn’t know it.” What would friends, enemies, family and fans say if you funeral service held today? How much impact does your life have beyond your daily rituals? It’s time to ask that question: “what will the world remember me for?” That a shy young man from the corner of Nigeria used what he knew best to bring positive change to the lives of underserved people across the world? How about, “Well, well, hmmmm, what did you say his name was again?” The climax for me was the moment when both terminally ill men stood at the top of one of Egypt’s famous pyramids and Morgan’s character told the story of how the Egyptian myth goes about gaining entry into heaven. The custodians of the gate would ask two questions to decide who was qualified for heaven: “Did you find joy in your life?” And, “Did your life bring joy to others?”

Not much needs to be said after those two questions. Hmm…

[NB: It’s 10:05pm and I’m with my parents in Igbabra Oke, Ondo State, Nigeria. I have just explained how I got online to my dad, and he’s obviously glad he got himself a Celtel SIM pack — which he did after I told him about One Network. One can only imagine what interesting options Nigerians will have access to over the next few years as ICT competition heats up ;-)]

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