It's hard to miss: a multi-paneled blackboard at the entrance to Paonia with the words "Before I die..." written across it. The board invites passers-by to write their thoughts in chalk. One wants to "Hike 1,000,000 miles," and another wants to "Meet Trump." Two people want to meet Russ, which a gentleman passer-by liked because his name is Russ. Some of the ephemeral thoughts are a little more lighthearted. One wants to "Hatch dragon eggs," another wrote, "Find Nemo," to which another added, "And find Dory too."
Felicia Sabartinelli, volunteer coordinator for Delta County HopeWest, said the organization installed the temporary wall, "just to get people to talk more about death and be more open about it, and also to think about what you want to accomplish before you die. What are your goals? What are your dreams?"
It's something often discussed at HopeWest, said Sabartinelli. Their mission, after all, is "To profoundly change the way our community experiences serious illness, aging and grief -- one family at a time." The hope is to take the wall to other towns and collect these "bucket lists" in order to better understand the communities they serve.
"We thought it really fit what we do to bring meaning to life," said Sabartinelli. Sharing their thoughts can also get people thinking about their mortality, wills and advanced directives and other oft-avoided subjects. This is their way of bringing it to the community to start those conservations and get people talking.
"I think it's very rare when people don't want to talk about it," said Sabartinelli. "We just have to ask the question: 'What do you want to do before you die?'"
Response has been largely positive. Within the first hour of installing the wall, a dozen people came forward to record their thoughts. Some messages are very powerful, said Sabartinelli. One states, "Be in love again," while another wishes to "Meet my dad." One person wants to get their Green Card. "That one just hits right here," said Sabartinelli, touching her hand to her heart.
That the wall was installed just ahead of the June 27 "Death Cafe" in Hotchkiss was quite serendipitous, said Sabartinelli. "I love that people are having those conversations. I think people hear the term 'Hospice' and they get scared." To write those advanced directives, "You need to have those conversations. It also gives people a chance to say, 'Hey, I want to meet Russ.'"
Ed and Betsy Marston donated the space for the wall on the new patio wall at Rio Bravo Restaurant and Thomas Waldo's Bar at the corner of Third and Grand. "We couldn't have done it without them," said Sabartinelli.
The wall will remain up until early July. Sabartinelli interviewed those willing to share those thoughts on camera, which will be featured in a short film, "Before I Die: Paonia," at 7 p.m. Sunday, June 25, at the Paradise Theatre. The event will also feature a documentary, "Being Mortal." Admission is free.