RELIGION

What This 94-Year-Old Can Teach The World About Bucket Lists

Shirley Bachelder placed an ad on TV with the simple message: "Love one another."
Shirley Bachelder, 94.
Shirley Bachelder, 94.

Shirley Bachelder's five seconds of television ad space earned her praise and recognition from around the globe. But the simple message -- "Love one another" -- was not really hers to applaud.

Bachelder, 94, said the inspiration for the message came to her one day when she asked God, “What can I do for you?”

“He told me just what he wanted,” Bachelder told The Huffington Post over the phone. Buy five seconds of advertising on primetime television, she recounted God's instructions. The message needed to have a black background and white letters that read, "Love one another."

“I said, ‘That’s gonna cost a bundle,’ and the Lord came back and said, ‘If you have to mortgage your house I’d like you to do it.’ In other words, it was very important to him.”

Bachelder added the request to her bucket list -- a long tally of “things to do before I die” that she’s been recording since she was nine years old.

When Bachelder’s friends caught wind of her desire to place the ad on TV, they contacted the local NBC affiliate, WSMV, and asked for help. On July 17, the “Love One Another” message ran on the station free of charge.

Bachelder said the message “hit a nerve” and the 94-year-old started receiving notes of support and admiration on Facebook from people around the globe.

“One of the most wonderful things people can do is to love one another and take into consideration that we’re all human, make mistakes and should be forgiven and loved just like God loves us,” Bachelder said.

The media coverage of the ad and an overwhelming response on Facebook made Bachelder guilty at first. “People were giving it all to me -- all this love and adulation -- but it wasn’t mine. It was the Lord’s,” she said.  

She and God patched things up, she assured. Bachelder's relationship with God has played an important role in the 94-year-old former missionary's long life. She grew up watching her grandmother ask for his guidance, and it became part of her daily practice, too.

“Sometimes God does not answer the question...and you say to yourself he doesn’t care,” Bachelder said. “But that’s not true. He does care and if you are alert and you are mindful you will see that it is the Lord that has lead you in a certain direction.”

Bachelder’s own life has been an interesting mixture of intention-setting and surrendering to what she feels is divine guidance. Her life-long bucket list included crossing the country, riding in a hot air balloon and going to college.

“She’s always had a list,” Bachelder’s daughter, Aleta Matthews, told HuffPost. “She has a real bucket list and then a million other ideas. It’s made for a very fun life because other people talk about doing things and she actually does them.”

She has now crossed off many of those bucket list items. Once her three children were all grown up and starting families of their own, Bachelder enrolled at El Camino College in Torrance, California and got a degree in art when she was 60 years old. Just last year, members of her Methodist church in Franklin, Tennessee, where she now lives, conspired to treat her to a ride in a hot air balloon.

That’s the beauty of a bucket list, Bachelder said: You don’t expect to get every wish fulfilled, “but it gives you something to look forward to.”

When asked what advice she would give to a younger person compiling their bucket list, Bachelder said, “Get as much traveling in as you can.”

Even in her 90s Bachelder said she occasionally travels on her own back to California for short visits and loves the opportunity to interact with strangers along the way.

Her friends at the retirement community she lives in frequently regale one another with stories of their adventures around the globe. “The experience of traveling is very broadening and very memorable,” she told HuffPost. “I never hear how cute their children were or how they had problems with their in-laws, but we very often get on the subject of travel.”

What remains on Bachelder’s bucket list isn’t a trip around the world, though. She’s aiming to publish a book about her late husband’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease and the wisdom she gleaned as she cared for him.

Shirley with her late husband, Robert.
Shirley with her late husband, Robert.

The book is a collection of stories, reflections and tips for finding ways to laugh in the midst of tragedy. Bachelder is currently looking for a publisher and plans to donate a portion of the proceeds to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

“It’s one of things the Lord has been saying we gotta do.”

 

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