Profiles in the Gap
Jackie Stamp is a nurse living and working in the Washington, D.C., area.
Ever make a bucket list? I completed the wrinkled, stained specimen on my bedroom wall at age 15. It has the typical teenage, Anne-of-Green-Gables-inspired objectives. Goals like “ Take Atlantic Ocean water and pour it into the Pacific.” Check! “Learn a language.” Ubi-dubi counts, right? “Visit a foreign country.” Done. “Sleep under nothing but a blanket of stars.” Every single year since. Or more humorously, “Upside Down Kiss.” Yep, several times…
At 25 I thought I would have one in particular crossed off, “Find a perfect new last name.” It, however, sits unchecked. This year has been a time of grappling with the ideas of 15-year-old romantic Jackie. I’ve needed to reorder my bucket list. The most dangerous pastime of a motivated 20-something is having a goal that robs from the joy of the present. That robs from the thrill of the journey. And somewhere along the last few years, I got robbed. Focused on that unchecked mark instead of the beauty of the multiple already completed goals, I lost sight of what really matters.
At the top of my list sits an unusual goal: “Make a Dying Man Smile.” It’s marked off — multiple times. As a nurse, I have had the honor of interacting with individuals who are faced with the end of their journey. I’m the 25-year-old shoulder they cry on as we discuss options and prognosis. I’m the 25-year-old hand they hold as they ask for advice. I’m the 25-year-old who makes them belly laugh when I whip out a sharpie and together we make their very own bucket list to round out their remaining journey. One treasured experience was with a 40-year-old gentleman whose sinus cancer had gone undetected, and when it was finally discovered he had only three weeks to live. I bought him a vente green tea, sat in this room, and we schemed about him trying his first cigarette (hell, he had cancer anyway), and laughed as we charted out his last road trip to see the Grand Canyon blaze in the sunset.
Yes, I still have unmarked goals — but perhaps they remain unchecked so I can help others with their bucket lists. Or so I can appreciate the goals I have already attained and the boxes that can be checked more than once. These are what make life beautiful. Those are the moments that make my journey, although different than anticipated, entirely profound and joyfully deep.