This Dying Matters Week we are releasing a series of blogs, sharing reflections on the experiences of some members of staff and patients at Royal Trinity Hospice and the insights they have gained about what is most important in life through their encounters with dying. 

So, what does dying teach us about…. 

Bucket Lists

The words “bucket list” can be inspirational but can also stir up some anxiety. It is a reminder of our own mortality, what if we never achieve all the things we put on our list? But, the reminder that our time is limited can be seen as a gift. It pushes us to identify what is most important to us and to catch our dreams before it is too late. Let’s hear what some staff members at Trinity have learnt about bucket lists from working with dying people and their loved ones.  

Amy (Consultant in Palliative Medicine) 

‘In my experience, these conversations often happen during a wider discussion about a patient's wishes and preferences and what is important to them. For example, it might be that the person is desperate to attend a family wedding/birthday/graduation ceremony or to go on holiday to a certain destination before they die. I think the key lesson I have learnt is, as far as possible, not to defer any life events that are really important, and to take opportunities as they arise.’ 

Vincent (Healthcare Assistant) 

 ‘It seems to me that when people approach the final chapter of their life, things like having missed out on certain opportunities or not having been able to achieve certain tasks tend to lose relevance. This is truer still for material things (e.g. never having made much money and not having had items of luxury), and less true for social and spiritual achievements (such as experiencing redemption or having reconnected with estranged friends and relatives).’ 

Abbey (Clinical Nurse Specialist) 

 ‘Doing this job does remind you that life can be really short and it’s so important to make plans, and make sure you are thinking about life outside of work.’ 

Maria (IPU Charge Nurse) 

On working with our patients, a piece of wisdom that Maria has found through time spent with them is about the present – honouring the moment rather than focusing on the past or future. It is also something she will refer to when going into a patient’s room. ‘Nothing else is more important than this moment. This moment won’t come again. For whatever reason we have been thrown together in this moment.’