These words are about the most precious thing in the whole world. The only thing on the face of the planet that is truly priceless. The thing that dying men beg for, rich men try and barter for, and yet it can neither be granted nor purchased. It destroys gardens and pathways and footprints and castles and empires and memories. It turns rocks into sand, turns black hair grey. Rubies lose their hue in comparison to it and diamonds lose their glitter when shadowed by it and the thing is more valuable and sought after than both combined. It discriminates between no man, no race, no gender, no social status. Oh does your father own the bank? Is your grandmother related to royalty? It means nothing.
It presses holes into the soles of our shoes, draws lines upon our face, closes wombs and weakens bones. It quenches love and creates legacy…
What is it that could possibly have this power? To make and break kings? To be both the father and the reaper of life?
Time. It is time.
The most undervalued valuable in the universe. The most underestimated power known to man.
There is never enough of it. Even those who are afforded more time than their portion, who have lived to see presidents rise and fall and laws challenged and then changed and seen babies grow to be children, then turn into youngsters, then into adults….even those who have had their fill of every extremity of life possible, and even the good fortune of true love will lie grey haired and breathless in their final moments and whisper “No, its too soon, Its too soon!!!‘
Ask the mothers of the stillborn, ask the fathers of sons lost in battle. What will they beg for? ‘More time, more time, more time.’
But time makes no exception. When the hour is up, it is up. And yet the true value of it only becomes apparent when we are down to those last minutes. The irony of this makes me almost furious, the idea that the only time we can truly grasp the value of something is when it is too late to do anything about it…
But we all know this I suppose. We all have an intellectual understanding that we are all going to die one day, that the clock will eventually just stop, yet in those last minutes we will still perhaps bare our teeth and bare knuckle fight for more but no more will ever come.
How many times have you heard someone say with regret ‘If only I had more time’ or ‘If only I could go back….’ In fact almost every regret we will ever have in our lifetime is related to how we used, or misused our time.
From the moment we are born we have a number. It sits invisibly above our head ticking down as we saunter through life. The number is the seconds we have left, the number of breaths left in our lungs, the number of beats left in our heart. But we are not aware of it. We don’t see that number ticking backwards before us in the mirror as we brush our teeth angrily after the argument had with our spouse and we don’t see it as we close the door behind us as we face another day of work, we don’t see it as we make choices, rejected ideas or grow too shy to speak up…
But listen, please.
We have only one life and oh how fast that one chance and one shot goes by, and the time we get is so rare and priceless that you cannot relive even one SECOND of it. Even money can be earned again once lost. Even a reputation! But not time. No. We only lose time.
I can’t get this concept out of my head. I have been kept awake by it night after night, suddenly aware of the fact that my time is running out. I don’t know what it is. I didn’t always feel this way so I don’t know why it is happening now but I feel so aware of my own mortality, as if I have been delivered bad news of a terminal condition and my number has been spoken over me, that number of breaths left, heart beats left, time left and all of a sudden I just want to live, live, live because the window of opportunity to do so is closing a little more with every day. Heck I could be dead next week, and that might sound morbid and dramatic but how do I know I won’t be? The thing is I don’t because there are no guarantees in life and that isn’t to say I want to go on a mad rampage doing everything I have always thought I would do if I had one day left like steal a Lamborghini, smash a really, really big window, let 1000 sheep loose in the middle of Surfers Paradise, shave all my hair off… Its not like that, its much more SERIOUS than that for me. This is really getting under my skin, I mean, this has really slapped me in the face. I just couldn’t bear to get to the end of my life and have such sadness for all the life I wanted to live but didn’t because I could never grasp that one day I wouldn’t get another day.
It’s made me really think about what life means to me and I think it’s different for everyone. I’m not going to put a list of things you must do before you die because no one else can define what life means for you other than you. But for me? I have to figure this out. I have to start really sifting through stuff and deciding how I actually want to spend the remainder of my precious time because If something suddenly becomes completely urgent as if nothing else in the world matters at the END of our life, then shouldn’t it have been the only thing that mattered all along?
Oh if I could take you by the hand and lead you through corridors and up the lift and through hallways until we get to the room of the gentleman who only an hour ago was complaining of the rubbish hospital food (it is actually rubbish) and joking with his young son that if he doesn’t win this weekends footy game he will be struck from the will, before asking when his wife plans on smuggling in the family dog for some sneaky visits….
Now he is on his back and there are 8 people around him. One is pumping his chest with her bare hands while another draws clear liquid up from a small glass vial into a syringe. Others prepare machines and connect wires and shout for more drugs, while person number one continues to pump away at the chest. Come on heart. Come on heart. Others busy themselves with note taking and furiously discussing how they can fix it…
Have you ever seen this? Have you ever seen a human being on the edge of life? Whose breath seems to evade the lungs? Whose heart refuses to beat without a woman forcing it to beat with her bare hands? A man with a wife at home looking for the book he was reading and doesn’t know? The man with a son? The man who named the dog that now sits at home whining because he knows something is wrong. The man who kissed Maria Thistleton on the lips when he was 13 after being dared to by Jeremy Arbroth at the christmas eve fundraiser? The man who now lies grey on his back with no heart beat and that woman who is pounding away on his chest, is she fighting for a heart beat? For a breath?
In a sense yes, but what is she fighting for really? She is fighting to earn him more time.
Have you seen this? Even if you did see this, I still don’t know if you would truly understand the value of life because the frustrating thing about it all is that we can never truly know the value until it is us on that table or that floor, gasping for you breath. Either us, or someone we desperately love….
I don’t know what this means for me, I still can’t make sense of this sudden awareness of the timer above my head but I figure it has something to do with some choices I need to make. Maybe I need to stop being so scared all the time of whats going to happen if I actually step out and try and see some dreams get realized. Maybe I need to realize that unless the worst case scenario of pursuing one of these dreams is death itself, then I should stop being such an excuse making, ‘I’ll get around to it’ sissy.
Maybe the same for you? If you were at the end would you regret staying with that dick who made you cry? Would you regret not telling the girl you have been admiring that you notice her? Would you regret not quitting that job with that boss that looked like a worm?
If you were at the end would you say ‘If I could have my time over again, I would not sweat the small stuff, I would be more courageous, I would move to the country, I would start that business, have another child, get married/not get married, get the counselling, learn to drive…”
Because this isn’t a game show where you can cash in your money or your prizes for a bit more air time. When its done its done.
For whatever this means for me, I don’t truly know but for now it means that I hold my children far more often, I realise how much I love and need my friends, I have stopped sweating the small stuff. In the long run there have been some things I have been wanting to do with my two boys… adventures I want to take them on. I always put it off. “Next holidays….”
I suppose in the very least I know what my boys and I will be doing these summer holidays….
Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late.