Shell Shocked: An early bird bucket list
May 16, 2018


My primary care physician finally entered the examination room. As I put my shirt back on, he asked me to be seated.

"I don't have good news for you," he said.

I took a deep breath. "What do the tests show?"

There was a long pause, a deep sigh, and finally he said: "You're suffering from terminal mortality."

"Give it to me straight, doc. How much time do I have left?"

"You've got 25, maybe 30 years left."

This is not what I expected. I thought I would live forever so getting such jarring news caught me by surprise.

"So, doc, what you're telling me is that I now have to squeeze in all the things I have left to do in 25 to 30 years? This news changes everything."

The doctor put his hand on my shoulder and said, "I wish I had better news for you, but you have enough time to put your affairs in order. Use your remaining time well."

As I walked out of his office all kinds of thoughts went round in my brain. How can I possibly squeeze in all the things I want to do - and need to do - in my remaining time? What a cruel blow. Here I've been thriving in my novice senior years and suddenly there's a time limit. Terminal mortality is what he called it. Well, doc, I thought to myself, I'm going to use my remaining time well.

When I got home, I told my wife that I had some sobering news and that she needed to sit down.

"I've been at the doctor's and after reviewing some tests I took he told me that I had terminal mortality."

My wife just sat there. "What are you talking about? Everyone has terminal mortality. We have it the day we're born."

"But you don't understand. The doctor told me I had a finite amount of time to live."

Now my wife started getting concerned. "How much time did he say you had?"

"He gave me 25, tops 30 years."

"You're joking, right?" my wife said. "Twenty-five to 30 years? At your age? If the doctor had said two to three years that would be shocking and sad. If he said five years that's still bad news but tolerable. But 25 to 30 years? Is he willing to sign an affidavit promising you all those years?"

I was confused. "But aren't you saddened that he's put a time frame on how much longer I will live?"

My wife started to laugh. "Saddened? I'm thrilled that your doctor gave you a life span that is longer than most people have. I think your doctor was pulling your chain. He probably saw that all your tests came back negative so his way of telling you that you're a healthy specimen was to tell you that you didn't have long to live - like t25 to 30 years.

"He gave you good news but in a very different way. Can't you see that?"

I sat there thinking about it for a while and still couldn't quite understand the big smile on her face. I said, "And I thought he was being serious and giving me bad news. I'll kill that doctor next time I see him."

And the bucket list I had begun to organize in my mind of things I wanted to do before I left this earth was put on hold. I figured I now had a bit more time and could start putting that list together 20 years from now.


Regular Size Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander