Having recently lost my dad, the topic of death is closer than usual. To be honest, as a health care professional who cares for many sick and elderly people, death is a frequent, familiar presence. I've never been able to draw a clear boundary, and there is often a sense of grief in the back of my mind. But when it's your own family there are additional nuances.
Family relationships can be complicated. Being of a teutonic extraction, midwest / Great-Depression raised, WWII era, my Dad was not someone who expressed "feelings". On the contrary, criticism was the natural form of communication and possibly of affection. (although, living with someone who is definitely not WWII era, and being Chinese, not teutonic, the same mode of expression applies - maybe it's universal). As a result, I kept much of my life a closed book to him, to keep the peace. I think I've accomplished a lot, but to his dying day, my dad never said he was proud of me, or glad to have me as his son, or thank you, or you're a good boy. Of course, there have been triumphs, and tragedies that he never knew about because of that closed book - but plenty that he did know. I never expected to hear any of those things, but now that he's dead, the finality of that denial is more acute than usual.
Which leads me to the responsibility of the dying, to the living. Sorry, this world's not all about "you". When you're gone, you're gone. You can leave a heritage, even if you don't have money. You can make a difference. You can leave people with regret, with unanswered questions, with resentment, with disappointment. Or you can leave them knowing that you cared about the bigger picture, not just what you wanted.
I saw on one of the lists of "100 things to do before you die" there was "Plant a tree". Bravo for that.
I hope the list also includes "Thank people who cared for you", "Choose the method of your corpse disposal wisely, and with care toward others", and "Give someone a scholarship". Maybe a few others. And "Accept people for who they are", "Tell them you were proud of them". I can think of others. I cared deeply for my dad, but now that he's gone, there is disappointment as well.
One thing I wanted to do for my dad was plant a tree. Then I realized 2 things. First, I already did that for him. About15 years ago, he collected some ginkgo seeds from his neighborhood, which he gave to me. I sprouted them in flower pots, then planted in my yard when I bought a home. I have 3 of those trees now. One is becoming fairly large, and just starting to "think" about shading a patch of lawn. The other thing I realized, is I don't think he would understand the idea of planting a tree in someone's honor - it's just planting a tree.
At some point, I'll need to think about what I leave for others. It matters to me less that I do "100 things before I die" and more that, during the short while that someoneone remembers me, they remember me in a positive light.