The King James Bible says in Psalms 90:12:
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
Good advice. If I live to be seventy-five, and I doubt I will, I will have lived 27,375 days. The clock will have clicked to the next hour 65,700 times. We all hope to have a long, happy, and productive life. We know our days our numbered. We woke up today knowing that we are one day closer to death than we were yesterday. Regardless of our wealth, health, status or fame, each of us will die some day. We can not avoid death. No matter how many supplements we take or how much exercise we do, we will, at some moment beyond the next breath, die.
When I was young I rarely thought about death. Death was for old people or for people who got cancer or hit by a truck. Every once in a while my sensibilities were startled by a young friend, family member, or acquaintance dying, but for the most part death never entered my mind. My uncle Dave died at age 26 and several high school friends died shortly after graduating. My wife’s uncle, my dad, and my mother all died in their late 40’s and early 50’s. When these deaths occurred I paused for a moment and considered my mortality, but in a short while all thought of death disappeared. I was young and I had my whole life ahead of me.
Fast forward to today. I am fifty-eight years old. I have health problems, older relatives are dying and rarely does a week go by when someone I know is memorialized on the local newspaper’s obituary page. These days I think of death often. I ponder my own mortality. I consider the notion of nothingness, never drawing another breath. I imagine going to sleep and never waking again. I have thoughts about how life will be for my wife and family once I am gone.
I don’t fear death. I have no control over it. I know death is lurking in the shadows. Some days, I feel death’s cold breath on my neck. I know that most of my life is now in the rear view mirror. I wonder, what awaits me in the days, months, and years ahead? The Psalmist also said, ” Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” Again, good advice. We don’t know what tomorrow might bring. The best we can do is live for today and to pursue love and happiness.
Older people like myself often speak of time flying by so quickly. Young people think their 16th, 18th, or 21st birthday will never come. For the young person, most of their life is yet ahead of them. Not so for us old folks. Time flies so quickly for us because we have so little of it left. If I live until I am 70, I have about 4,380 days left out of 25,550 days, less than 20% of my life. The meter is running and I am all out of change.
What do I want to do with the life I have left? This is a hard question for me to answer. To live my life well requires me to decide what really matters. What do I want to give my time to? I envy those who have life all figured out. I am a restless person, constantly being pulled this way and that. My passions burn and wane and I have a hard time fixing on those things I want my life to be defined by. When I was a Christian and a pastor all these questions were answered for me. I knew my calling and how God wanted me to live. Some days, I wish I still had that sense of purpose and certainty. Now, I know I must make my own way and find my own meaning and purpose. As a free man, free to do that which I wish to do, I ask myself, how do I want to spend what life I have left?
For now, I am content to focus on family, writing, and photography. I know there will come a day when I will no longer be able to write or snap a photograph, so I continue to do these things while I can. I continue to drink the love of my wife and family, knowing that when the day comes for me to die, they will be the ones that matter.