Turning 44, Missing Sandy & Bucket Lists

I turn 44 next month.  I know this isn’t a typical milestone birthday, but for me it is proving to be very emotional.   You see, I’m the youngest of 4 children.  I have 2 sisters and a brother.   Number 3 in the lineup is my sister Sandy.1044010_10152947073365262_2005921523_n[1]

Sandy turned 44 on April 26th, 2007.   She came to visit in October that year and I couldn’t believe how great she looked, she lost a lot of weight and just looked healthier.   I asked her secret and she said she just didn’t have that much of an appetite.   A short time later she was having trouble with a “flu bug” that just didn’t seem to want to go away but kept getting worse.  By January she was undergoing some tests.   She called me January 18th and told me she had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer.   We cried on the phone together.  Neither of us understood what was going to happen, I think we both thought she’d be going through some hard things like chemo, etc.; but in the end she’d be ok.  Right?  She lived in Florida and asked me if I would go to my mom and dad’s house to be with them as she told them the news.

She didn’t have health insurance and although she had been sick for months (the cancer may have even started a few years earlier) she had put off going to the doctor in order to not spend any money.  She just kept popping tums like candy.  By the time it was found it had spread through her abdomen and into other organs.  She underwent chemo but it was too late to help.  I flew down in February with my parents to visit her; she looked at least 10 years older than she had in October.  Doctors told her in April that it would be best if her family came now to see her- we flew down the next day and on the 22nd of April, 2008 I held my sister’s hand and said my final earthly goodbye as she took her last breath.   She was buried on her 45th birthday.   We sang happy birthday to her at her funeral.

I know that as she approached 44 like I am now, she had no clue that would be her last birthday, her last year here on earth. It’s just been making me think long and hard about my life; both in review and how I’d like some things to be different.  If I knew this was my last year on earth how would I live it differently?

You see, I get overwhelmed sometimes by regret.    Decisions I wish I had made different.   The style (or lack thereof) of which I live my life.   So many years I feel were wasted.   Friendships I wish I had nurtured better that were lost as I moved schools, churches, jobs or cities.  Just the simple enjoying life and people that I tend to deny myself because there is work that needs done.   (ie:  how can you have people over if you still haven’t painted the trim in your bedroom).  Letting my illness (fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue) stop me from so many enjoyable things by thinking every ounce of energy or bearable pain days need spent checking off my to-do list.   The continual beating myself up with negative self-talk and second guessing decisions.  Succumbing to days of depression that ride along hand in hand with my illness.    Not to mention the way I tend to think others view me as not good enough………………..

This is not the way I would want to spend my last year!  So….. I’ve decided to make a bucket list.   Well maybe not a complete bucket list, but things I’d like to do or learn to quit doing over the course of my 44th year here on earth.   I’d love to know what Sandy would say she wishes she would have done!  I knew a lot of her heartaches and desires but what would she have placed at the top of the list?

So here we go, I’m going to be embarking on a year long journey.  No more procrastinating as I flip the pages of the calendar!  It’s time to live more intentionally; which I believe can be done even through a chronic illness that seems to dictate my activities.  I’ll share my bucket list with you as we go through the year together; but the first item that seems to scream for my attention is joy.  That’s why I started this blog to begin with – it was JOY’S TURN; right?  But it keeps slipping through my fingers!  I plan to spend the entire year focusing on and researching joy.  Now stay with me for a minute – I do not mean “happiness”.  Joy and happiness are two very different things.  Happiness is external and momentary – it can come about from events, activities, moments shared with others; but joy is internal, accompanied by peace and contentment that remains solid even in the dark, troubling times of life.

Join me here, each Wednesday, as I learn how to add joy to my life and live out some bucket list items in my 44th year!