Before I die I want to ___________.

In spite of all of the gross headlines spewing from my hometown at present, Twitter can be such a goldmine. Today I found an article  — seven TED talks to help us conjure up gratitude in time for Thanksgiving. One of the talks was called “Before I die I want to …” by Candy Chang, an artist from New Orleans. (Please do yourself a favor and watch/listen to her talk.)

Maybe I’m one of the last people to find out about this, but this filled my heart with a myriad of emotions that spilled all over the place.


The above photo* is the “before” of a building in her neighborhood.

Below is the “after.”


Chang created an interactive installation — a chalkboard — in which passersby can pick up a piece of chalk and finish the sentence:

“Before I die I want to _______.”


Some answers are funny, some are sweet, some are heartbreaking. Since this original installation debuted, new ones have been created in public spaces all over the world.


In her TED talk, Chang says, “Two of the most valuable things we have are time and our relationships with other people. In our age of increasing distractions, it’s more important than ever to find ways to maintain perspective and remember that life is brief and tender. Death is something that we’re often discouraged to talk about or even think about, but I’ve realized that preparing for death is one of the most empowering things you can do. Thinking about death clarifies your life.” 

Oh, my heart.


Admittedly, my profession forces me to think about our mortality much more often that I care to. But I tend to focus on the brevity of others’ lives and what’s important to them, not me or my own life.

Savannah, GA. Photo by Trevor Coe
Savannah, GA. Photo by Trevor Coe

So I asked myself: Before I die I want to…what? The honestly of my own answers took my breath away. Some answers were empowering; some painful. I won’t get into all of them here. It’s a little too personal, a little too hard. But I will share a few:

Before I die I want to…complete a marathon.

Before I die I want to…write a book — including photos/illustrations.

Before I die I want to…hug my grandchildren.

Before I die I want to…visit more national parks and experience more wonder.

Before I die I want to…create an anonymous art giveaway project that spreads happiness.

Before I die I want to…bake my own french macarons.

And the list goes on.

But one important thing that’s missing from this post (and the TED talk) is what’s already been done. I realized I have a big list of those, too. I’ve taken my kids to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade…and showed them D.C’s cherry blossoms at the height of their blooms. I’ve showed them both oceans, hiked with them in the Rocky Mountains. I’ve watched my kids graduate from high school, play sports, attend college. We’ve seen concerts, watched the Cardinals play at Wrigley, toured museums, visited zoos. We’ve had FUN. While there’s still so much to do, this Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for so many things we’ve already done. We have had — and continue to have — our challenges, but wow, how blessed we are.

*Unless otherwise indicated, all photos credits belong to Candy Chang and can be found by clicking here

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