Hospice Niagara launches 'Before I Die' display to encourage living life to the fullest

Hospice Niagara launched its 'Before I Die' project at the Pen Centre in St. Catharines over the weekend. People were invited to write their goals on four blackboards with chalk.

An artist created the first 'Before I Die' wall on an abandoned house in New Orleans

Hospice Niagara set up their 'Before I Die' station at the Pen Centre in St. Catharines over the weekend. People were invited to finish the sentence with chalk. (Hospice Niagara)

'Before I die, I want to…'

What would your answer be?

See your children grow and be happy? Travel and see the world?

Those were two of the answers to the question from shoppers at the Pen Centre in St. Catharines over the weekend, as Hospice Niagara set up a  "Before I Die" station at the mall to encourage people to think about living their lives to the fullest. 

On a square of large blackboards, people were able to write in chalk what they want to accomplish before they die. 

"The focus is about living well and taking advantage of every one of those moments that we have," said executive director of Hospice Niagara, Carol Nagy. 

"It's a way to celebrate our humanness...it's about doing things now, doing things that are important to us. That are important to our partners and our families and our communities." 

Staff came up with the idea after brainstorming ways to have a conversation about death that was accessible and inspiring. 

Nagy explained that the Western world can be a "death-denying society," where people often treat death as something that will happen "later on" or even not at all. She said this can make it difficult for those who have received a terminal diagnosis. 

"I think the conversation still comes with a certain sense of fear," she said.

"Even if the individual themselves wants to discuss this and embraces the idea of death and dying as part of being alive, there's even that hesitation about how that will be received by other people." 

Hospice Niagara wanted to put their 'Before I Die' display in a public place to make the topic of death more accessible. (Hospice Niagara)

The blackboards are part of an international Before I Die project, which was started by artist Candy Chang. She created the first 'Before I Die' wall in 2011 on an abandoned house in New Orleans while grieving for a loved one. 

Those who are currently using Hospice Niagara's bereavement services attended the event, as did their family members to support and participate. Staff were there to answer questions and talk with those who passed by. 

Here are some life wishes

The goals did not have to be lofty aspirations. All wishes were welcome, from the grander ideas of travelling to the smaller things, like appreciating every day. 

Nagy stressed that while the idea of a bucket list has been around for a while, the blackboards aim to encourage "emptying" the bucket and doing it. 

The aspirations didn't have to be far-reaching goals. Executive director Carol Nagy said that fulfilling smaller aspirations helps encourage people to make new goals. (Hospice Niagara)

Here are some of the goals from this weekend's event. 

Before I Die, I want to….  

  • Travel North America in our new trailer.
  • Show my wife how much I love her. 
  • Build a car with our kids. 
  • See my grandsons graduate. 
  • Drive a 1964 Shelby Cobra. 
  • Make everyone feel loved and help others. 
  • Start a family. 
  • Travel to St. Kitts to see the vervet monkeys. 

Hospice Niagara wanted to put the display in a public place to engage different age groups and people of different cultures so the boards reflected the community.  

"It's not just people who are living with a diagnosis. This is for everybody," Nagy said. "When you talk about death, you can't help but turn that around and say, 'okay. I'm coming to terms with my own mortality. Now, I have to look at how I'm going to live." 

Nagy said they also hope to shift the perspective of those who have lost others in hopes of overcoming the adversity of grief. 

Hospice Niagara offers a range of support for those with life limiting illnesses, those caring for loved ones with illnesses, and those who have lost someone in their lives. All their services are offered at no cost.