I got an assignment in church on Sunday, announced to the whole congregation, mind you, when the Parish Associate told us to start writing down all the ways we could see God at work in the coming week and that Jane would have her list on her blog. He even gave us hints on how to spot it: Growth. This kind of boxed me into a corner. Not that I ever doubted I would spot God at work in the coming week. But I already had my topic for this week figured out. And since it’s only Tuesday as I write this, I figure I still have half a week before I need to post my list. I can say, however, within 20 minutes of getting the assignment I started to see God all around me. And what a poet God is. No, no….you’ll have to wait until next week. Next week I will write about Growth but today I want to talk about the exact opposite: Limits.
I’ll do a disclaimer for today’s subject for all the wide-eyed optimists out there. I want to talk about death and dying today. Feel free to skip over today’s posting if you don’t want to think about it. I’m sure this phenomenon won’t ever happen to you.
When I hit 60 last year I referred to it as the first year of the last third of my life and a lot of people shuddered and told me to not think of it that way. But the math doesn’t lie. Most people, healthy, average people, die (oh, there’s that word) somewhere between 80 and 90. I’ve had relatives die before then but they weren’t healthy. And I have friends over 90 years old but I can assure you that they’re not average people.
There can be an upside to limits. With limits you pretty much know where you stand. I was doing the math with a friend who is the same age and we decided that most people live to be 85. The thought hit us both at the same time, “Then we still have 25 years to go!” We high-fived each other right there in the parking lot.
The simple truth is that there is a limit to how long I will breathe on this planet. Those who hold to the theory that we continue on in some other form after we stop breathing will say that we influence our friends and family long after we’re gone. But I’m not talking about that right now. I’m talking about my opportunities to be part of the action, the parade of life, to vote and to shop at Walmart.
It has started to slowly creep into my thoughts more and more. I can remember when I was about nine years old wondering if I would EVER be in the seventh grade. I remember wondering if I would still be alive when the year 2000 came. And a couple of years ago I was listening to two women discuss weight and the fact that they both still weighed what they did in high school. I thought to myself at the time that I would be happy if I could just lose down to what I weighed when I was nine months pregnant. It didn’t help to watch a bunch of old home movies with my granddaughters of when their mother was about 4 years old and I’m not sure they recognized me. I know I will never be that thin or that young again.
Time marches on. It takes no prisoners and early release is not the desired option.
The usual holiday weight has more endurance than I do and I’m tempted to surrender to it rather than go through the effort required to send it on its way. Rather than watch a bunch of exercise videos I always try to find something physical that I enjoy. Over the last few years I’ve hit the hurricane recovery circuit and did a fair job of losing weight and having fun at the same time. Two weeks ago we basically “camped out” inside a church building and slept on the floor. When I rolled out of my sleeping bag each morning and managed with some great effort to actually stand up, there were new pains in my feet that I had never felt before. And we didn’t even do anything that physically taxing. In fact, all I did was stand around and watch. But my feet aren’t even used to standing up that much anymore.
It’s more than the effect time has on my body that frustrates me. It’s the sheer “not being here” that pounds me to the ground. All the years I’ve known Beaven one of his favorite subjects has always been that someday they would discover a process to create nuclear fusion and all our energy problems would be solved. It’s a topic that creeps into many conversations we have. Not that we’re such eggheads that we sit around talking about nuclear fusion and such all the time. But his point was that new inventions come all the time and this one is inevitable. It’s only a matter of time. The other day we saw a show on TV that said they’re getting closer to it and may have the process in hand in fifty years. Just like Beaven said, it’s inevitable. But fifty years!! Too long for me. I most assuredly will not be here by then. I don’t have 50 years to wait. I don’t have it. My lifetime is limited.
Any calculation of putting in solar power or windmills tells us the payoff of the initial investment will come years from now but I don’t want to have to wait that long and it’s not because I’m spoiled by instant gratification. It’s because I want to be here to see it happen.
OK, I have lived to see things my parents never dreamed possible. I watched them land on the moon. Next week I’ll see something many people never thought they'd live to see when a black man is inaugurated as President. I know who Deep Throat was now. But I may never find out what happened to Jimmy Hoffa or Osama Bin Laden. Or if Britney Spears can stay clean. I just don’t have that kind of time left. And it's starting to drive me nuts.
I need to start working on my list of ways I’ve seen God at work. Maybe if I assemble a good long list I can present it at the gates of heaven and get a personal meeting with the Creator and ask to come back. Save me a place at dinner next to Elijah. I’ll bring him with me. I'm sure he'll want to come, too.