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  • Writer's pictureRachel Kodanaz

The Ultimate Bucket List – love, life and the bottom of the world

The term “bucket list” is not new; the concept has been around for years. The notion provides an opportunity for individuals to create a list of personal goals they would like to achieve before their death, a wish list of obsessions, activities and adventures to undertake in one’s lifetime before one “kicks the bucket.” For most, a bucket list continues to evolve over time as life offers opportunities, new learning experiences and the desire to conquer activities that stretch our comfort zone.

So often our loved ones pass before they have the opportunity to fulfill their bucket list. In the case of my husband, his untimely death robbed him of the opportunity to accomplish many of his desired goals. In the year following his death, I found myself feeling guilt-ridden that I had the opportunity to achieve goals and experience a variety of unique opportunities while he would never have the chance to do so. The anxiety I felt led me to put my own bucket list aside to embrace something substantial on his bucket list. The idea immediately boosted my emotional state while providing a wonderful opportunity to further connect with Rod even after his passing.

Rod was an avid triathlete with the desire to someday participate in the Hawaiian Ironman World Champion event. In my “widow brain” state, I decided that I would pursue his extreme goal – a crazy notion since the event was limited to a very small population of professional and elite age group athletes around the world. I made up my mind that I would fulfill his dream and set out on a long and difficult journey of training and racing to qualify for the super bowl of triathlon. While challenging and exhausting, the connection I shared with Rod and the energy he provided me along the way was and remains priceless.   The biggest “aha” I had during the training and racing was that I could overcome the physical pain because I knew in my heart that I was fortunate enough be alive and have the opportunity to feel the physical pain. Together, Rod and I accomplished his bucket list goal of crossing the finish line in Hawaii – I experienced it both physically and spiritually, forever reinforcing our bond.

My inspiration to write this blog occurred last week while I was with my family running the Antarctica marathon on King George Island. Marathon Tours has a unique Seven Continent Marathon Club, a membership requiring the completion of a marathon on each continent. The first day I met Dave who was traveling to Antarctica to fulfill his wife’s dream of joining the Seven Continent Marathon Club. Dave’s wife passed away prior to her planned trip to Antarctica; therefore, he embarked on a journey with his brother-in-law to fulfill My Luu’s, his beloved wife, bucket list dream despite the fact that he never run a marathon prior to the trip. He traveled to the end of the world, endured the Drake Passage, ran through snow, sleet, rain, mud, rocks and penguins to conquer My Luu’s personal goal. I can only believe that she was there with him to share in such a special journey and bonding opportunity.

While these two stories represent extreme examples of completing a loved one’s bucket list item, the following are just a few additional ways to share the experience of life, loss and a continued connection:

  • Travel the world

  • Establish an athletic goal

  • Further your education

  • Learn to play a musical instrument

  • Publish a book

  • Expand your cooking skills

  • Start a new business

  • Learn a new language

The beauty of a bucket list is the continued evolution of the list, as items are checked off and new ones are added as we weave our way through life. Although Rod passed away many years ago, I feel that I continue to accomplish his unfulfilled bucket list by blending it with our family’s adventures and experiences, creating a lifetime of connection.

Rachel Kodanaz is an author, speaker and consultant who provides encouragement to those who are suffering a loss or setback. She is the author of Living with Loss, One Day at a Time.

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