Fulfilling My Sister’s Un-Bucket List

When my sister passed away last year from cystic fibrosis, my family discovered that the computer with her list of requested arrangements had been wiped out. Little did I know, the damage control we did in the wake of this would take me on a very special journey.

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Kristen Brockman
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What's on your “bucket list?” Seeing the Eiffel Tower? Learning to play the guitar? For mine, I want to cage dive with great white sharks. But what if you weren't healthy enough to do all the things you wanted to do? And even more, what if you didn't think you'd live long enough to finish most of the things on your list?

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Last September, my sister Kelsi passed away after a very long battle with cystic fibrosis. She had always mentioned to my family that in the event of her death, there was a file on her computer with all the arrangements she wanted for her funeral, and that I would know how to find it. When that horrible day finally came, I was totally shocked and upset when my mom came to me and said, “Oh no! Her computer got wiped out 2 months ago!” Unfortunately, it had been having some major technical issues and had to be wiped clean.

I checked her computer, and sure enough, there was nothing there. No pictures, no documents, no videos ... nothing. If you knew Kelsi, then you knew that she didn't want a typical funeral and it was very important to us that we do it the way her unique spirit would have wanted it done.

After hours of panic, we thought that she maybe could have backed up the list on her phone. With some begging and the help of her phone carrier, we were able to retrieve her information from the cloud. And suddenly, there it was: the dress she wanted to wear, the songs she wanted played, what she wanted on her gravestone, and more.

But that wasn't all. I now had access to every single note backed up in her cloud. As I scrolled through her lists of thoughts and memories, I came across one called “Un-Bucket List.” What's an un-bucket list, you may ask? Well, I'll never know for sure, but my guess is that it was a list of things she wanted to do before she died, but never thought she'd be able to do -- her un-finished list.

Just a few weeks later, I realized a trip I was taking with my family would put me close to the location of one of the items on her list: the famous Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C. When I saw it on Kelsi's list, I just knew it was something I had to do in her honor. So, I rented a car and headed to Asheville. There, I spent hours exploring the huge home and its beautiful gardens. Even though I went by myself, it felt like Kelsi was right there with me all day long. Everywhere I looked, I saw so many things that made me think, “Oh, Kelsi would LOVE that!”

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When I posted a picture online from my day at the Biltmore and told the story of how I ended up there, I received such an incredible response from people encouraging me to finish her list. So, I decided that I would. Although I knew that finishing Kelsi's list would help keep her memory alive on a personal level, I wanted it to be something more than just me traveling around to cool places. Don't get me wrong -- that sounded GREAT, but I ultimately wanted to use it as a tool to raise awareness for CF. Last week, on the one-year anniversary of Kelsi's passing, I launched my blog, The Un-Bucket List, where anyone can follow along and share my journey, as well as a passion fundraiser to go along with it.

Even though Kelsi never got to do all the things she wanted to do, I was so happy to see one item checked off on her list: our road trip to San Francisco in 2015. If you've ever driven up the California coast, then you know it is home to some of the most gorgeous sights in America. And let's not forget the REAL highlight of her trip: the “Full House” house! As for what else is on the list ... well, you'll just have to wait and see.

Every day, I am thankful for what a special gift Kelsi left me. Now, it is my turn to continue this exciting journey and spread CF awareness so that one day, everyone living with CF will be able to finish their bucket lists.

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Kristen has been volunteering and fundraising for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation since 2008, and has served as the chair for the Los Angeles CF Climb since 2013. She is a television and digital host/producer who, after losing her sister, Kelsi, to CF in 2016, began her latest project, The Un-Bucket List: a travel blog where she will finish Kelsi's bucket list to raise awareness for CF. You can follow Kristen on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram @kristenbrockman and @theunbucketlist.

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