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The Missing List


It's a way of life for many of us. We make lists. Grocery lists. To-do lists. A list of birthdays to remember. A Christmas card list. A list of bills to be paid. A list of phone calls to make. A list of passwords. Bucket lists. Sometimes we may feel like we need to make a list of the lists we need to make!

The expression "bucket list" has become a popular way to think of the things we want to do, the places we hope to visit, the projects we plan to complete before we die... or, if you will, before we "kick the bucket." That list might change as one year turns into another or as aging reorders our priorities. The list might shrink because of a lack of financial resources or out of shifting interests. And maybe that list doesn't yet exist because we don't like to think about not being around to do what we want to do.

Death is a difficult subject. Yet it is a given. So, we do well to think about it, talk about it, be prepared for it, and even plan on it. Maybe we could shift our focus a bit away from "kicking the bucket" and think about a missing list. What's missing in our life today? What do we feel a need for? Who do we hope to yet become? This isn't so much a matter of wishing or dreaming or even hoping. It's about figuring out what is most important while we are alive. And then not avoiding it or putting it off.

Maybe the missing list is a way of considering living to be more than a matter of survival. Although surviving is important. An associate editor of The Christian Century magazine writes of her bedtime routine with her son. They do "breathing exercises" and then "body scan meditations for anxiety." And finally, she reports, "my son goes over his plans with me for how he will survive a school shooting." She carefully reassures him, "Those are good plans," because she has come to understand that saying "Don't worry" or "You'll be safe at school" doesn't help. Perhaps it is her presence at his bedside that is most reassuring. She is there. She is listening. There is nothing more pressing for her at that moment than what she is doing and for whom she is doing it.

When I was a child, I said prayers at bedtime. The world has changed. So has being prepared for another day. Is there anything or anyone missing from our plans for today? Is there anyone in our lives who reassures us with the carefully chosen words, "Those are good plans"? I like to think that our Creator who has given us the breath in our lungs and a body to inhabit (and scan for anxiety) is present and listening with nothing more pressing to do than to be with us. And for us. At least for another day.

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