Bucket list is no longer a rare term however it is not something you would usually associate with a twenty-three year old. But when life alternating circumstances occur the usual rules go out the window.
The concept is simple, twenty-three things to do before turning twenty-three. Sounds easy right? Think again. Grace Collins is the founder of this bucket list which has grown more famous over time. It may have started out as a bit of light-hearted fun but it soon turned serious with a significant birthday. Grace’s fame first came about after she created a blog to tell the story behind the list. Even though there has been some media attention since then, none have yet caught up with her after the list has been finished. TURNBULLTEXT interviews Grace and speaks in-depth of the highs and lows of the list. “It all began with my housemate when she was doing her UCAS application and I realised I wanted to do something with my life. I said I was going to make a list of things I wanted to do. But the reason behind twenty-three things before twenty-three is because my brother passed away at that age. It felt strange coming up to the same age and being in the same point in my life.” Grace’s brother, Oliver sadly passed away in his sleep in March 2006 when he was just twenty-three years old, hence the importance with the number. “Ever since that day my life has been completely different. It is very true that you don’t know what you have got till it’s gone.” Oliver suffered from a cardiac arrest and died suddenly in his sleep, neither he nor his family were even aware he had any heart conditions. He died from Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS) which is an umbrella term for the many different causes of cardiac arrest in young people. Cardiac Risk in the Young (C-R-Y) is a charity which works to raise awareness and provide support and counselling for those affected by SDS. Their ultimate goal however is to have heart-screening done for every young person between the age of fourteen to thirty-five to help uncover any undiagnosed heart conditions. It may seem like a rare condition but statistics show twelve young people die from SDS a week. A spokesperson from C-R-Y explains the charity’s aim “to work with cardiologists and family doctors to promote and protect the cardiac health of our young by establishing good practice and screening facilities devoted to significantly reduce the frequency of young sudden cardiac death throughout the UK.” One of the main services the charity provides is counselling and helping those who are struggling with the loss of a loved one. Grace explains how they helped her “I heard about C-R-Y from day one, someone actually got in touch with us and asked if they could be of any help. They paid for me to have my heart screened in London because it’s important to make sure it’s not genetic. I feel like they took me under their wing.” Grace soon became fully involved with the charity and helped raise enough so they could organise a free heart screening day for 130 people. The idea was if something was picked up by the screenings then the information was passed along and further tests were organised. “It actually picked up some serious conditions in three people in my family. One of my cousins had to have an operation and one will be on tablets for the rest of his life but if these tests had not been done then they could have died. So it does show that it is all worthwhile.” C-R-Y speak of Grace’s involvement: “Grace’s approach to fundraising has been innovative and great for raising awareness of the charity. She has regularly updated her supporters with posts to her blog about the events she has been doing and why she has been doing them. Through her blog, she has been invited to interviews in local press and on local radio. When she speaks about her fundraising it really is inspiring and entertaining to listen to.” While heart conditions in the young were once rarely heard of this year the world was shocked when two cases of SDS appeared in the sporting world. Bolton footballer, Fabrice Muamba made an almost miracle recovery after collapsing from a heart attack on the pitch in March. Despite his heart having stopped for just over an hour the footballer has made a full recovery. Just one month later Italy’s Piermario Morosini died from a heart attack on the pitch in front of thousands of fans. Both players were under twenty-five and these unfortunate events highlight the risk of unknown heart problems in the young. If any good could come of this it would be the world wide awareness people now have for SDS. It is the aim of charities such as C-R-Y to spread the word about SDS. Chief Executive and Founder of C-R-Y, Alison Cox MBE, says; “We feel it is time re-launch this powerful campaign to help emphasise the importance of screening and the fact that so many of these tragic cases affecting fit and healthy young people could have been prevented. These twelve faces are just a “snap-shot” of the problem and we need to keep up the pressure and engage support from as many MPs as possible to ensure we can prevent other families from experiencing similar tragedies.” With the death of her older brother Grace begin to take on more adventurous challenges and tried to fully embrace life. “He was the typical big brother; protective, loyal and loved to spoil me. We were not angels by any means but I could never imagine my life without him. I don’t think I will ever face that reality. But if Oliver taught me anything it was to live life to the full. I have always aspired to be like him because he seemed to have no fear. Whatever he wanted he fought hard to get, and I always carry that with me.” Even before the list the twenty-three year old Brummy decided to take life by the horns and do more daring things. With her friends going off to university Grace decided it was time to do something for her and so created a list of things she has always wanted to do, facing her fears and visiting different places.
The things on the list include everything from a bungee jump and holding a tarantula to buying a pair of designer shoes and going to Paris. “I owe it to Oliver to live my life to the full and have no regrets. So I had a fantastic idea to make a list of everything I want to do to remind myself I am alive and I only get one shot at this. Life is not meant to be easy but people can get so swept up in money, work and materialistic objects they forget you’re meant to be happy. You work to live, not live to work.” Grace has set herself the task of completing her list before her twenty-third birthday with the rules that everything must be done or booked by her birthday. There also has to be at least one of her friends to accompany her and provide moral support and a photograph to provide evidence each challenge has been done. Writing a list of things you want to do may sound easy enough but it is a completely different matter when you have to do the challenges in reality. It is an impressive feat to remain focused and interested in something that goes on for a year of your life. Yet Grace had made a promise to Oliver she would complete this list and do more outgoing things and enjoy life. There is also the blog to be taken into consideration. Even before any other media heard of Grace’s task word of the blog spread via social networking sites. The blog has regular followers from family and friends to those who just happened to come across it. Either way Grace’s is the kind of story you can relate to no matter who you are or where you come from. It is a story about loss, grief, courage and inspiration. Something which is consistently mentioned in the comments and emails left on the blog “It has motivated me quite a lot when people got in touch so I started to put my email address on there and I definitely did have a lot of people contact me. Some people had been in a similar situation and say I’ve heard about this and I think it’s great what you’re doing for the charity.”
TURNBULLTEXT caught up with Grace while she completed yet another task on the list – visiting Scotland.
Sarah: So let’s talk about the list. So what made you think of the things that are on there?
Grace: Some of them are just things I’ve always wanted to do and others I got from other people’s bucket lists. Like people say you should always watch the sunrise on New Year’s Day. I actually read somebody’s blog and thought it was amazing. It’s something I’ll tell everybody to do. Some were things Oliver really loved, like sport. So I’m doing a triathlon next Sunday. And with Paris, I cycled there in 2008 for C-R-Y but I only got to spend a day there and I really wanted to go back. Bits of the list were facing a fear like with the bungee jump and the tarantulas and others were just things I thought I’d never do like going on a blind date (laughing). I wouldn’t do that one again! I should of known he was a little odd when he text asking if I wanted to go ‘riding’, quickly followed by ‘riding a horse’. There are challenges on the list as well, for example with the charity race I wanted to push myself and even trying to get on the telly was difficult. I was lucky because we just happened to get tickets with Strictly Come Dancing and then we had to get on the front row. It’s kind of a mixture; it’s strange if I look back now, I think I would have changed some of them and put some harder things on there.
S: Like what – what did you really want to do?
G: One that I wanted to do was arrange a flash mob. Some people have said some of the things do seem a little bit easy but obviously at the time I was doing them as a personal challenge and it did have a different meaning in the beginning. And now I feel with each task I have to make it as interesting as possible for people and even have a twist as well.
S: So you came to Scotland to complete another task on the list and give a speech for The Compassionate Friends?
G: Yes, they gave a lot of support to Oliver’s dad. What they do is offer, I wouldn’t even call it counselling, but somewhere you can speak to other bereaved parents. So my speech was about the sibling point of view. And taking a positive from within a negative and how I tried to change my outlook on life.
S: Did you feel nervous at all?
G: I was absolutely petrified (nervous laugh). I’ve never done anything like that in my life before. I struggle to talk to my friends sometimes with what’s happened so to speak to that many people! But it was amazing, the sense of achievement afterwards and the feedback I had. After my speech I had a man in a kilt bring me flowers.
S: So you’ve seen only one man in a kilt?
G: We saw quite a few men in kilts, last night, in a bar, they were very friendly. (Laughing). They were on a rugby night out so it was just coincidence that we saw them. But they were real Scotsmen we found out. (Cheeky laugh).
S: Have you got anything planned for when you finish the list?
G: A lot of people ask me this and at the time I thought I would just be relieved to be done but I have to admit it has been the best seven months of my life. And it has shown me how much you can do if you put your mind to it. I thought I would have done these things over seven years not seven months and knowing I had a deadline it has been fantastic. And I recommend everybody do a list of crazy things they want to do, even if it’s one thing and think, right, by the end of the year I’m going to make sure I’ve done that. So I think afterwards, I’m not going to make a new list, but I might do a new blog called ‘life after the list’ and it won’t be so pressurised to write so regularly but I’ll be living my life a certain way after what I’ve learnt and hopefully it will still inspire people. I’m still living life for the message I’m trying to get across to people. And I have signed up for the London Marathon next year. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’ve applied before but I didn’t get a place so I’ve really got my fingers crossed for this year. I’ve always wanted to go travelling as well so that could be something that’s next and I could do a blog about that too.
S: If you keep on at this rate you’ll end up climbing Mount Everest!
G: (Laughing). Yeah maybe one day – I’ll never say no. I think that’s the problem I have, I can’t say no to anything. I’ll always do it, with the speech as soon as I heard about it I thought that was my worst nightmare but I gave it a go. The more against something I am or the more I know wouldn’t normally want to do it then the more likely it is I will do it. No matter how hard you think it’s going to be or how difficult, the feeling afterwards always overrides the fear that you had before.”
Speaking to Grace was truly inspirational. Here is a young woman who has suffered a great loss which is not usually felt by one so young. Yet she has not allowed it to get her down and has determinedly learnt from the painful experience. As a result the twenty-three year old has completed her list of twenty-three challenges, fears and things she has always wanted to do. Not only has she taken on an incredible task but she is determined to spread her message. “If by the end of my twenty-three things I have inspired one person to do something they have never done before, given a few people a laugh after a hard day and raised some money for charity then my job here is done! So I ask everyone on Wednesday 19th October, what would have been Oliver’s thirtieth birthday, to do one thing they have never done before, not matter how big or small. You only get one shot at life and if you live it right, once is enough.”
While Grace’s birthday was in June and she has successfully completed her list there is still on more thing she has booked but not yet done. Grace has already organised a trip to go to New York in October. This is especially significant as the city holds many memories for her and Oliver. TURNBULLTEXT would like to congratulate Grace on all her hard work and finally finishing the list. However I am sure this will not be the last we hear of her. Read in detail about all the tasks on the list on Grace’s blog 23B423.blogspot.co.uk and look out for her new blog ‘Life after the List’.