A child adds an answer to the “Before I Die” wall at the Westbrook Community Center. The wall is a hit, with few blank spaces left. Courtesy photo

WESTBROOK — Girl Scout Olivia McCartney wanted to do something both interactive and inspirational to earn her Silver Award. So she set up a “Before I Die” wall at the Westbrook Community Center and it became an instant sensation, filled out with answers from young and old alike.

The wall is a part of the international Before I Die Project, which bills itself as a “memento mori” for the modern world. Memento mori, for those who aren’t students of Latin, means “remember you will die,” which is essentially the “You only live once” of the ancients. The project was started by artist Candy Chang in New Orleans after losing a loved one, and it has spread to over 5,000 walls worldwide.

McCartney, a freshman at Westbrook High School,  was inspired by a Before I Die wall in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, which she writes on every year when visiting her grandparents.

“You can be inspired by other people’s dreams and ambitions, or take the time to actually think about your own,” McCartney said.

Her wall, near the Community Center’s Spruce meeting room, is already full of answers, ranging from the fantastical, such as    “Before I die I want to meet Shrek,” to more realistic goals like skiing the Swiss Alps or having children. The wall can be sobering as well, with answers such as “see my mom.”

“I think that having a Before I Die wall available for everyone is a great way for people to share their dreams, no matter how crazy, unrealistic, or just plain simple they may be,” McCartney said. “This past summer, for our family reunion, my family made a variation of a Before I Die wall, in the form of a wooden cube.  The prompt on this one was, ‘In five years I will…’  There are different Before I Die walls around the world, in all different shapes and sizes.”

Anyone can add an answer to McCartney’s wall, if they can find room to write it, during Community Center hours.

“Olivia was working on it and came back with her team to touch it up and found it was already (almost) full,” said Community Center Director Greg Post.

“It ended up being a huge hit during (the recent) Community Fest, and people are continuing to write on it each day,” he said.

The center plans to keep the wall up at least through the middle of this month.

“They encourage people that when all the lines are filled up to continue filling in all open space,” Post said.

Olivia McCartney creates her “Before I Die” wall for a Girl Scout project. Courtesy photo

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