In 2011 Artist Candy Chang turned an abandoned house in New Orleans into a giant chalkboard and invited passers-by to complete the sentence ‘Before I die I want to …..’ The answers covered the full range from comic to aspirational but even the comic ones, like ‘I want to be tried as a pirate’, reveal something of the writers’ genuine dreams and yearnings.
I had the privilege this week of attending a wonderful memorial service for an old friend. It was a genuine celebration of a life well lived. I was struck by how many people said ‘David would have loved it’ and I don’t think they meant just the selection of old hymns! He would have loved what people said and remembered – even though the memories weren’t all rosy! Our friend was not in the least famous but he influenced a huge number of people. He lived his life with firm purpose and put his energy into things that were genuinely important to him.
In the middle ages it was customary to include a ‘memento mori’ in a portrait painting – a skull or other symbol that was meant to remind the person of their mortality. They did it as a remedy against pride. Maybe we need something similar, like Candy Chang’s wall, to remedy our modern sins of apathy and ‘putting it off’.
So how would you complete that sentence? Whatever comes up, that’s your heart saying something to you. Goals and dreams – don’t ignore them, don’t put them off, don’t leave them till the time is ‘right’ – it may never be right. Our time here is limited and precious, we won’t get it again. Let’s really use it to the full.
You can hear more about Before I Die by Candy Chang in her TED talk here Before I Die