Have you ever experienced a perfect storm of events that seem to come together just to wave the flag of your own finite nature right in your face? It can trigger some soul-searching and spark some deep questions. And lead to us to new insights, too, if we’re willing to go there. Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of just such a storm.
The first event happened about two weeks ago; two friends celebrated milestone birthdays. That’s what I call those birthdays that count your life in decades, instead of years. One friend turned fifty and the other, seventy. It reminded me that my middle daughter is also celebrating a milestone this year. And since she was born the year I turned thirty, I’m headed for a change of decades, too. I remember thirty as a tough year for me — giving birth, leaving my twenties, and the sudden death of my mother-in-law. Teetering on the brink of depression, the weight of my own mortality drew into sharp focus. This year, although I’m in a healthier state of mind than I was at thirty, my milestone birthday will still give me pause.
The second experience came in email form. I subscribe to several writers’ email lists. These writers send regular doses of writing advice and inspiration. One day, I received an email from Suzanne Lieurance of Write By The Sea. She’s usually very encouraging. Most days, I read her emails and feel ready to conquer whatever roadblocks stand in my way. That particular day, her note was entitled, How To Be Ruthless With Your Writing Time. It was more like a slap in the face than a note of encouragement. She basically said if you’ve made a time-management plan and are failing to stick to it, then be warned that you can’t get that time back. Your time is finite. Woah! Its not like we don’t know this. But, boy, do we do a good job of living in denial. Whatever our goals are, however we try to plan our time in pursuit of those goals, we don’t have forever to accomplish them. Truth.
And, then, two days ago, I attended a funeral. There’s nothing like a good funeral to bring mortality to our attention. Thanks to streaming technology and the Covid19 pandemic, I actually watched the funeral from home. A faith-filled, eighty-five year old member of our church had died of a brain tumor. The priest giving the homily spoke of this man’s grappling with the prospect of death. He likened it to the interplay of Tevye and Golde in Fiddler On The Roof — rewriting the scene as a dialogue between the dying man and God, with the man asking “Do you love me?” and God answering, “For eighty-five years…” However long we have, and whatever we try to believe about an afterlife, we still have to come to terms with the fact that our time on earth ends, eventually.
Lastly, on the advice of a friend, I watched the Disney movie, Soul. What a beautiful story of life and death, meaning and purpose! In the end, life’s purpose isn’t to be found in one extraordinary accomplishment, but in the living of every moment to its fullest. Our time here is finite. Hopefully, that thought spurs us on to make the most of it, rather than waste it. Time is a precious commodity. Let’s each spend it well.