The Bucket List Festival

The Bucket List Festival.  Somehow those two things – bucket list and festival – don’t seem to fit in the same sentence.  But they do and I’m the proof of that.

The Bucket List Festival is in its second year.  It’s put on by the palliative care team – major inspiration, Dr. Pippa Hawley – at the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver.  The Festival’s purpose is to provide information and contacts that will help cancer patients live out their lives well.

I remember like it was yesterday the day I was told I was “palliative”.  It’s not a great word and it was not a good moment.

To me palliative meant one thing:  as good as dead.  There I was sitting in my brain surgeon’s office and he was telling me this chordoma thing I’ve got is going to kill me, likely sooner rather than later.

What I heard was “it is over”.

Being told that I was going to die soonish didn’t have the focusing result many people report unless you consider depression a focus.  For a fair bit I pretty much went through the motions as my mind tossed around questions like “what have you accomplished in your pitiful life?”

Then Pippa Hawley, my amazing pain doctor, mentioned the bucket festival.   Paul and I bought tickets (as much out of respect for Dr. Hawley as interest in the actual festival) and we ended up spending a dismal Saturday listening to people talk about how to live and die with cancer.

Like all meetings there were good parts and there were bad parts.  I don’t think I will ever go to another session on back pain management and that decision alone will improve my life immeasurably.

But I will go to a session on living legacies if only to experience the rush of feeling that comes when someone talks about the legacy that can remain after they are long gone.  And I will listen to someone describe the drug regime necessary to put on and participate in a hell of a living wake.  It’s amazing how creative you can get when you’re facing death and you’re not quite ready for it.

In all it was a great day, fulfilling and engaging.  I had a million ideas when I left the conference, few of which I subsequently acted on.  But the best thing I took away was a reconnection with my own life – a reconnection that happened because I was forced to consider in a very practical way, my death.

This year’s Bucket List Festival takes place this Saturday (Nov. 5th) at the Executive Hotel, 4201 Lougheed Highway in Burnaby.  For information or to register visit .  You can register on the day of the Festival.



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5 Responses to The Bucket List Festival

  1. Bill says:

    Hi Ian

    Political stories and life stories – you are so inspiring! You don’t know me from Adam but I can assure you that I will cherish the words you have posted on this blog, a legacy to be very proud of.

    All the best.

  2. Maurine Karagianis says:

    Ian, you always have that capacity to make me laugh & cry all at the same time!
    Your post reminded me of something that has been roiling around in my head since Jack Layton’s funeral! Dying is terrible but dying well is an amazing thing! So few are allowed to know when it will occur and consequently never get the opportunity to plan it, craft it in a way that leaves a deep imprint on the world. I heard that Jack spent his last moments listening to kd. lang singing Halleluia. I shall never hear that song again, and it’s one of my favourites, without thinking of Jack! His funeral was from first word to last musical note a spectacular homage to Jack and everything he believed in….we believe in as progressive social democrats. It was all about his life! And it changed the world!
    You also are leaving a deep and lasting imprint on all of us……………….your fearless attitude, your wisdom, your love, your humanity! You have changed the world!
    Sending you an abundance of love

  3. Norm Farrell says:

    I suspect you are creating a legacy that you will never know because it involves people you’ve not set eyes upon and may never meet, even if you are still attending Bucket List Festival events long after now. Your writings have been informative, your humanity consistent and your selflessness apparent. Above all, the material has always been interesting.

  4. Gemma says:

    A bucket list festival sounds like a great idea! I love the idea of a bucket list, it kind of makes me feel as if people are actually living their life instead of waiting to die. I’m currently working on my own bucket list on – it’s a great place to share tips and ideas with other people.

  5. Pippa says:

    Thanks Ian!

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