SAUCIER — Buckets and bouquets


Covid has caused many to consider the uncertainty of life.

Sales of headstones have increased, and the term “bucket list” is popping up in articles and ads.

That’s good. Pre-planning arrangements is a kindness to your family. Doing some things that will give you joy will positively affect others in your life.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind driving the Great Barrier Reef or hiking the Himalayas, but I’m not sure that doing either is going to make me better prepared for my demise or better suited to any transition.

Maybe, thinking of things we want to do before we die, we could add a list that focuses on our spiritual path.

We might call this one a “bouquet” instead of a “bucket,” like the old practice of listing devotional practices we offer for another.

This one, though, is about what we are going to do for ourselves.

In Hindu teaching, and in a lot of Christian practice, that last stage in life’s pilgrimage is the Forest Dweller. It is an ascetic phase of retirement, wisdom and renunciation. It is an attempt to disentangle our lives, remove the clutter and to see what remains, to see what abides.

There are two questions we confront. The first is “Who is God?” and the second is “Who am I?” They are not unrelated. 

To wrestle with the first, we have to go beyond titles and definitions to encounter the presence of God in our lives.

We have to see it, name it and rely on it. 

Throughout our lives, we struggle with personal identity and purpose.

Age only intensifies our need to find our deepest, truest self — who I am, apart from any resume or relationship.

Both of these searches demand honesty, discipline and prayer. My suspicion is, the closer I get to one, the more self-evident will be the other.

Retirement and renunciation do not absolve us from service. To the contrary, they provide more time to seek out and care for the other. How do I best do this?

The last flower in my bouquet is for unrequited love. We look back and see the people we loved who either spurned that love or abused it. Isn’t it time to forgive them?

But there is another love sown on rocky ground. What about those who sacrificed for us or longed for our friendship, but were denied or discarded?

How do I atone for that?

So, bucket or bouquet? Why not both?