The Bucket List — Revised


Some years ago, I wrote an article about my Bucket List. A “bucket list” is a list of things that one wishes to see, do, or accomplish before one “kicks the bucket.” I was going through some papers in my desk at work and found that bucket list that I had compiled. My list was inspired by a movie released in 2007 called “The Bucket List,” starring Morgan Freeman, Jack Nicholson, and others.

Soon after seeing the movie, I was on a plane and compiled my list using one of the (for lack of a better term) barf bags provided by the airline. I would have been 56 years old at the time. How did I do? Well, a lot has changed between 56 and 72. The truth is that I wasn’t able to check off much of anything on that list.

Some items on the list I will likely never be able to check off. I wanted to travel more and visit places I had also wanted to see. The travel list included Scotland, England, Rome, Vietnam, and the Holy Land. I wanted to learn to play the drums, to skydive at least once, to finish an educational project, and to lose a certain amount of weight that I do not care to publicize here.

I also put on my list that I wanted to fight in one more karate tournament (black belt, heavy weight, senior division), to max out on every weight machine in the gym, to be sworn in as a law enforcement officer again, and to learn Spanish.

At the time, with decades before me, every item on the list seemed doable. But time, circumstances, and age also get a vote.

I did finish the educational program I was in but that was the extent of my success. I had reached a good place in my life and work at that time. The church I had helped to found in 1996 was doing great. We had purchased property and occupied our first building in 2002. My wife was a professor at the University of West Georgia, and the kids were all adults with families. And then, in 2007, my bishop had a massive and debilitating stroke that would take his life seven years later.

It was in 2007 that I was elected and installed as an Auxiliary Bishop and would, in 2008, be set in place as the Diocesan Bishop. The next five years barely gave me room to breathe.

In the coming years, I would have three knee surgeries, two of which would be total knee replacements, and I would contract a virus which would lead to Atrial Fibrillation and congestive heart failure. Later, I would be, and continue to be, besieged with excruciating pain in my back, hips, and legs because of spinal stenosis. But one must soldier on, and the thoughts of completing the bucket list fell away.

Robert Frost said, in his beautiful poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”

It is the unexpected popping up that affects the plans we make. Sometimes, those incidents turn out surprisingly well. For example, because of either my wife’s work or mine, I have visited places I never thought of visiting. Places like Alaska, the Philippines, Mexico, Ireland, Kenya, Uganda, Jamaica, the Netherlands, Australia, and St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. We even enjoyed a visit to western Canada, a trip we made with my in-laws.

Since I made my bucket list, I learned to ride a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and, with my oldest son, became an active patched member of a law-abiding three-piece patch motorcycle club for six years.

I have seen all my sons become good men, good providers, and good fathers. I have lived long enough to see twelve grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. I have helped, with other Marine Corps veterans, to raise multiple tens of thousands of dollars for children’s and veteran’s charities through the local detachment of the Marine Corps League and I was profoundly honored to be named the Marine of the Year by that detachment a few years ago. None of all of this was on my bucket list.

It’s been sixteen years since I compiled my bucket list on that AirTran flight. Do I have another sixteen years to go? Well, that would make me 88 so maybe so. But, as I have discovered over the past sixteen years, things change and the future can’t be completely mapped out by anyone, bucket list or not. I’d still like to learn to play the drums, but I will probably try to get better on the guitar instead.

I’d also still like to learn Spanish and I have some resources that may help me do just that. I’d like to take my wife to Scotland, her ancestral home, and I’d like to visit Kent, England where my roots lay.

Rome or the Holy Land? Unless the spinal stenosis gets much better, that’s out, as are the other countries on the list. Skydiving, maxing out at the gym, and karate competitions? Nope. Those are young men’s things. Lose weight? A current and continual battle. An additional educational project? Possibly. I have always been a lifetime learner.

Sworn-in once more as a police officer? Possibly but unlikely. I spent 25 years in law enforcement chaplaincy serving the Peachtree City Police Department for all those 25 years. During that time, I also served other agencies for several years including the Senoia PD (where I was sworn), the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office (where I was also a sworn deputy), The Fulton County Public Safety Training Center (the police academy from which I graduated as the Honor Graduate), and the Atlanta Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

I remain a Georgia POST Certified Law Enforcement Officer, though it is in an inactive status now. A few years ago, I was asked to be the chaplain for the Palmetto Police Department, and I still serve those fine officers and staff.

My bucket list is now more modest. I just want to complete whatever tasks lay before me and to finish well. I’m still the Rector of our church and I am still the Diocesan Bishop. There are some other roles I must play, so it seems there are still “miles to go.”

King Solomon, after a rich and active lifetime summed up his observations, contemplations, and advice this way: “Put God first in your life. Follow Him and trust Him with your whole heart.” I believe that is my new, revised bucket list. Let’s see what the future brings.

[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King ( Worship services are on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. and on livestream at He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South ( He may be contacted at]