We want to share an uplifting story about a global community art project called “Before I Die” that is giving people all over the world a chance to positively reflect on their own mortality.
New Orleans artist Candy Chang founded the project back in 2011 after she lost someone she loved. While going through a long period of grief, she found clarity about the role death plays in life but she struggled to maintain the feeling.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget what really matters to you,” Chang said. So she looked for a creative outlet.
After receiving permission, Chang decided to paint a chalkboard on the side of an abandoned house in her hometown. She stenciled it with a grid and repeated the phrase, “Before I die I’d like to…” then left it for neighborhood people to fill out with reflections on their own lives.
Chang wasn’t sure what to expect but by the next day, the entire chalkboard was full with thoughts like:
Before I die I want to… sing for millions.
Before I did I want to…plant a tree.
Before I die I want to…hold her one more time.
Before I die I want to…straddle the International Date Line.
Before I die I want to…see my daughter graduate.
Before I die I want to…eat more everything.
Before I did I want to…abandon all insecurities.
Before I did I want to…be completely myself.
The responses made Chang laugh and cry while reminding her she was not alone as she tried to make sense of death.
After posting a few photos of the wall, she received hundreds of messages from people who wanted to make one in their town so she created a website to organize the project.
Now thanks to participation from hundreds of people around the world, more than 500 “Before I Die” walls have been created in more than 70 countries, including Portugal, Japan, Denmark, Iraq, Argentina, and South Africa.
Chang said she hopes all the new walls will help console people during hard times. She has recently published a “Before I Die” book that is a celebration of the walls and the stories behind them. You can read the story here and follow the project on Twitter.