It has been 28 years since I graduated from high school. That is almost inconceivable. I can remember sitting there in my desk (many desks actually) at Southern Nash Senior High School and wishing that those three years would hurry up and end. I, like most teenagers, was wishing my life away and didn’t even realize it at the time. I had so many plans and ideas about what I wanted my life to look like. There were things that I was absolutely sure of in 1988 that seem almost comical now. One of them was the “lie” that I had my whole life ahead of me.
Don’t misunderstand me. I did have my entire life to live but I incorrectly assumed that I would have plenty of time to do all those things I thought I wanted to do. If you would have told the 18 year old version of me that nearly three decades were going to vanish in what seems like the blink of an eye, I am sure that he would not have believed you. The 46 year old version of me, the one sitting at this desk writing these words, knows all too well. It is often dismissed as nothing more than a cliché and I don’t know if we ever truly believe it until we get older but the saying is true: life is short.
I know that it isn’t true but sometimes it seems as if time speeds up as we get older. I realize that is ludicrous. Regardless of how old we are, time remains the same. One minute is still 60 seconds. One hour is still 60minutes. 24 hours is still one day. 365 days is still one year (unless it’s Leap Year). Time, as we measure it, is consistent. Our perception of time however, does seem to vary.
Like I said when I started this, it has been nearly 28 years since I walked across a stage that had been set up on the football field behind Southern Nash. That took place on Friday, June 10, 1988. That was almost 10,220 days ago. I haven’t figured out the exact number (there are those pesky Leap Years to factor in) but that is a pretty big number especially when you consider that I’ve only lived about 16,790 days total. I don’t know how long I will live but the odds are that I have already lived over half of my life. I am not trying to be pessimistic but it is highly unlikely that I will see my 92nd birthday.
If I manage to live eighty years that will be right at 29,200 days. If I subtract out the days I have already used up I am left with about 12,410 days. I have already said that the 10,220 days since my high school graduation seemed to pass just like that (imagine me snapping my fingers right there). Perhaps that will help folks understand why I seem to be so aware of my own mortality. I am not trying to be morbid or dark. I am not sitting around wringing my hands and dreading my impending death. If anything I am trying to truly appreciate the time that I do have.
The truth is that we are all in the same boat. We are all born with a limited number of days to live here on earth. I am sure that we all know those who lived long lives. We also know those who didn’t. I had a grandmother who died at the age of 86. I also had a sister who never took a single breath. I am keenly aware that we all have our own set number of days and God Almighty is the only who knows that number. Not one of us extend our life one single second beyond the appointed time.
I confess that the thought of dying used to frighten me. I was terrified by the fact that I could die at any moment and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. I laid awake many nights afraid to close my eyes because I was certain that I would not wake up. I have openly admitted that a simple children’s bedtime prayer used to scare me. Consider these words for a moment: Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.
Imagine the fear I felt as those words cycled through my head. I was already afraid of dying and that prayer, which is meant to comfort, paralyzed me. I believe the loss of my sister contributed to the terror I felt. I was 8 years old when that happened and it taught me that no one was exempt from death, not even an unborn baby. It really did take me a very long time to get over that and if I’m truthful, I’ll probably never be completely over it. I am glad to say that I no longer fear death. There are days when I actually look forward to leaving this worlds because I know what is waiting. That is a comfort.
Grace and peace