Martin Regional Library

Death is a topic that many people are at least somewhat uncomfortable with. An old adage says that one should not discuss religion or politics in polite company, but an unspoken corollary is that people also tend to avoid discussions of death, unless the topic is unavoidable. While completely understandable, this is also rather odd: after all everyone will eventually face and encounter mortality, both their own and of their friends and loved ones. And thus, discussions about death and mortality are both frightening and deeply important. It was in this spirit, and with these competing observations in mind, that we chose to host the “Before I die..” exhibit here at the Martin Regional Library.

Overall our experience hosting the exhibit was an incredibly positive one. Staff observed customers of almost all ages, from older children to the elderly, participating. The lines on the boards filled up several times over, and response ranged from the silly and sardonic, to the deeply profound. Some responses pertained to the purely physical and material world, while others were explicitly religious in outlook. But all of the response seemed to share in the spirit of the exhibit: namely to express a desire for something personally tangible with the time they have left in their life. The shear range of responses made the experience a uniting one, and the library would be honored to host the exhibit again in the future.        Ben Willcox, Martin Regional LIbrary, Reference Team Leader

Oklahoma Hospice and Palliative Care Association Conference


Brookside Library 

"Brookside Library customers, adults, teens and children, were very interested in the wall and began engaging with it immediately! Some customers had questions and asked staff, but most simply walked up to the wall, grabbed chalk and started writing. There was a great response and the wall filled up several times. A few customers brought back their friends specifically to show them the wall and add their contributions. We happened to find a book about the Before I Die Wall here at the library and displayed it at the front desk. It was great to see customers so interested in the wall, and to read all the various additions to the wall each day."          Kelly Bayles, Brookside Library Branch Manager

Langston University 

"The Before I Die wall celebrates hopes and dreams, and starts the conversation about what’s most important in a person’s life. The students at Langston’s Cultural Diversity Day put chalk to board in an effort to focus their thoughts and identify what they want to accomplish before dying. Give a voice to the voiceless. Be a millionaire. Save a life. Travel the world. Become a mommy. People’s aspirations were written in chalk for everyone to see. Some students commented on how inspired they felt and some laughed as they wrote simpler things. No matter what was written, the wall sparked conversations about living well and, subsequently, dying well."          Britni Smith, Clarehouse Education Director

The Journey Home 

"The Wall provided another dimension to our annual fundraising event!  The participant’s experiences of deciding on the "one, most important ‘Before I Die I Want To’ action" were described as introspective, interesting, and soul-searching. The Wall drew people to it immediately after setup.  At the end of our evening before preparing the Wall for transport, one patron asked for more time which resulted in a wonderful, heart-warming last posting!"            Doug Quinn, Board President

Christ Church


Phillips Theological Seminary 

"The "Before I Die..." wall attracted a diverse group of people completing this life examining prompt at Phillips Theological Seminary. From graduate students taking a course on how to care for others, to nearby neighbors living in mobile homes and an RV park, the responses showed us that everyone has a goal on their "bucket" list. The wall's presence on our campus sparked conversations about death and dying in a fresh way. While we train many people as clergy who will sit with families as a loved one transitions from this life, the wall was a reminder that not everyone leaves this world desiring the same thing. The diversity of responses from the simple, "see the ocean," to the aspirational, "know true love," reminded our faculty, students, staff and neighbors that regardless of how we live or love, death will touch us all. Phillips is thankful for the gift of the "Before I Die..." wall and the awareness it raised for our community."    Kurt Gwartney, Sr. Director of Seminary Relations

Tulsa Central Library