Before I Die

21 Dec

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What people will do for each other at the end of the world. December 21, 2012.

I planned a weekend to Washington D.C.  on the day the world was to end? What was my problem?  Ironically though, part of me thought, How many items off the list can I get in before the Apocalypse? Better leave Lynchburg early.

All the experiences I wanted to accomplish before the end of the weekend, or the world, seemed to place themselves around one area: Logan Circle. My day brightened immensely when I arrived at a most marvelous place. Hotel Helix, a metro/ retro turquoise, pink, lime and silver themed club style boutique hotel blended with modern pop art and wall sized murals of rock and roll icons. Amazing  60’s moderne meets 1980, the halls filled with tunes I knew in my late teens. Remembering those days put me right in the middle of my own version of The Wedding Singer and I went all the way back.

The way you walk, the way you talk and try to kiss me
And laugh in four or five paragraphs
All your compliments and your cutting remarks
Are captured here in my quotation marks
And I’m giving you a longing look
Every day I write the book

When I booked the place though, I also found that the valet parking would be outrageous, so I arranged to park nearby at a property my cousin manages. For free. Something almost unheard of in DC. There was no doubt that the Universe was looking out for me, just maybe not in the way I had anticipated, though.

Upon looking at the map of the hotel’s location, I noticed the Before I Die Wall. I had never known about it, but after having watched Candy Chang’s TED speech,  I knew I’d need to include it in the weekend’s events. Bucket list proclamation comes first. I need to put something of my own there.

I settled into my room, then up the block I went to see the wall camera in hand. Upon arriving at the corner of Q and 14th, I noticed that construction was happening, but no wall.

I asked. I looked, but nothing. Then, I realized it was gone.

The wall was on unused space, now being used. I’m not going to say that I wasn’t disappointed. I was an awful lot. Everyone needs affirmation. To some, my intense focus on living toward this bucket list is pretty crazy. “Yeah”, they say, “Well,  I got a house and kids and I work hard for a living to care for them. I have small children. I have responsibilities, so living normal life is my intention”.

Yes, you have those things. You have those precious, enviable, irreplaceable things….. I don’t.

So I shopped for wine at Cork and Fork a bit, then went back. I had told the concierge Tam that I was here to accomplish items on my bucket list, and when I returned without pics of the wall she asked why. And the story came out, including my disappointment in small measure. She immediately said, “Well, we will just have to make one for you here” and she flipped out a piece of paper and wrote at the top, “Before I Die”. Then, she proceeded to have as many staff as she could find write something they wanted to do.

I  cried.

This is what people do for each other when the intention is open and honest. This is when compassion takes the lead. One of the most touching moments was when a maintenance man, who obviously didn’t speak English well, wrote “I want to meet President Obama”. I nearly hugged him. What amazes me more and more is that when given the opportunity, most people connect at will and they connect in real and genuine ways.

So now I sit here at the wine hour included with my room thinking about the essence of service, of giving. It’s hard for many people, especially those of us who have been used to giving and nurturing others to allow others to give to us, to show us care. Some are so used to pouring out their lives and experiences to others that they barely know how to hold onto them and keep them for themselves. Like that last piece of pie. They give it away rather than splitting it.

Tam said to me, “I haven’t really ever thought about all I want to do before I die. I need to do that.” Her gift to me, was a response from a gift to her I unintentionally gave. That’s the Universe at work, I know.

I am so lucky living in this moment. I’m not taking anything for granted.

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