Seizing the Last Moments: Reflections on “The Bucket List”

Morgan McKinley November 15, 2013 3 mins read

The main characters in the movie are two old-timers: Edward, a hospital tycoon, and Carter, a mechanic.

Standing by his lifelong adherence to the belief that “no one is special, each hospital room will have two beds”, when Edward is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer he’s booked into his own hospital—in the same room as Carter.

From different backgrounds and only sharing the fact they’re both terminally ill, it’s not hard to believe the two men initially find it hard to get along. They’re brought together, however, by a desire not to pass away with things undone and wishes unfilled. After making a “bucket list” (list of things to do before they ‘kick the bucket’), they set out together on a worldwide adventure, completing the items on the list—and adding more—as they go along. When Carter passes away, Edward takes it upon himself to continue realizing the wishes of both men. When Edward passes away, his assistant fulfills their last wish, placing their ashes at the top of a mountain, overlooking the world.

There are numerous engaging parts in the movie. For example, at one point Edward arranges a prostitute for Carter, who refuses, but in the process finds a renewed love for his wife. Like a stranger before he left, Carter returns to his old self as a loving husband. Edward also shares personal bits of his own life: He’s been married three times, and has a daughter, from whom he’s estranged. The daughter married an abusive husband, who beat her once in the past. When the husband abused her a second time, Edward stepped in and drove him off, causing his daughter to disown him. Carter understands that Edward longs for his family, and arranges a meeting at his daughter’s home. Edward was furious, and responded by saying that he doesn’t need anybody. When Carter passes away, a letter he left moves Edward to reconcile with his daughter, giving him an opportunity to be with the cutest girl in the world—his granddaughter.

In real life, many people are also like this—fighting for the sake of other people, regretting things that have happened in the past. Imagine you’re faced with terminal illness. Aside from despair, what else would you feel? You need courage—not the courage to fight the illness, but the courage to take responsibility for yourself and your life.

There is an Egyptian belief brought up in the movie: Upon death, God asks you a question: “Were you ever happy?” Your answer determines whether or not you’ll be allowed into heaven. This emphasizes an important point: The purpose of life is happiness, even to the last moments. It doesn’t matter how much money you make; what matters is whether or not you’re happy in the process of making it. At the end of the day, the goal of making money should be to increase your own happiness, not accumulating wealth just for the sake of becoming wealthy. You should live your life according to your own standards, go with the flow, and never place material things over your own personal happiness.

We can also call the ‘bucket list’ a ‘list of dreams’. ‘Bucket list’ emphasizes passing away, while ‘list of dreams’ sounds more life-centered. We should all make a list of dreams—at the very least this will give us goals to strive towards in our youth, giving us fuller and happier lives. So, what’s first on my list?

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