Time is what we have

“What is time?” asked the 11 year-old son of his father.  Finally, the father, who was supposed to know about such things, offered the briefest of answers. “Time is what we have.”

The answer  begged for more explanation, but it spoke out loud the frailty and wonder of the human condition. What is time? It’s what we have but, like everything else mortals have, or think we have, time runs out. Time is like the sand in the hour-glass. It sifts slowly through the funnel from top to bottom until there is nothing left. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes. Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

The relation of time to eternity is the relation between mortality and immortality. Our hour-glass contains eternity but it does not define it or confine it. We experience eternity in the now of time as we look at the heavens on a starry night, feel a gentle breeze or the rush of a mighty wind, or watch the shorelines of human construction eroding, pushing back the illusion of ownership and control of nature and of time.

My poet friend and Views from the Edge colleague Steve Shoemaker is coming to the end of his time. After many decisions that prolonged his life far beyond the original prognosis, he opted last Saturday to give way to time. Steve chose to spend whatever days are left at home at Prairie Haven on the plains of Illinois.

The news came less than a week after five old friends who call ourselves the Dogs traveled from Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota to gather one last time with Steve at Steve’s room in the care center. We barked and growled watching the first presidential debate. We laughed. We sang some hymns. We prayed with and for Steve, Nadja, and their children, Daniel and Marla. We prayed for ourselves. The time was right.

When news arrived only days later that Steve had opted to end further medical treatment to go home, the conversation with my 11 year-old son years ago and Steve’s verse “When to Stop Praying” (April 2, 2016) came quickly to mind. The prayer now is for an end of striving. An end of pain. “Pray for my peace, not my life.” The end of time.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 5, 2016.

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Time is what we have

  1. It is the issue I am facing with my daughter…. A while back I and the counselors at the nursing home, decided to push comfort care…. sort of. Now she is back in the hospital again, but still has a strong will to live…. I am worn out…. though she is not happy there.

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    • Sometimes there are no good answers, Karin. You’ve been burdened by this for as long as I’ve known you. A question is “how” to approach the matter with your daughter. A family conference led by a counselor at the nursing home would seem to be one option. That way the focus is not on your daughter alone; it’s an equal sharing among family members of how the current situation is affecting everyone. It would be a way for everyone to show love and care without hiding feelings. It IS about HER life and her wishes, but not about her life alone. Seems like a discussion with Dean is in order. He has chaplaincy experience that could be very useful, and I’m sure he’d want to be helpful as your pastor.

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