A passing thought

When I was younger my life was like a bottomless basket of days to spend. Of course I always knew it was a finite amount that would eventually come to an end. But there were so very many days in that basket, that the idea of them running out was of no concern to me.

Here is one of my midlife revelations. I see now that the level of those days in that basket has dropped significantly. I don’t know how many more there are, but I can readily tell that I have already used more, undoubtedly many more, than I have left.

I think the death of both of my parents has sharpened this sense that time is running out, that time is of the essence. Since their passing, I have been somewhat preoccupied with death, and in particular with my own death. It’s not that I fear death or am even particularly sad about the idea of the end to my own life. But the thought of my inevitable death makes me consider more seriously my life.

Recently I feel like I struggle with younger people. I don’t always understand them. I don’t always understand their behavior at times or their priorities in particular. And I came to realize today that perhaps younger people still see their basket of days as an endless supply, as I did. When I was young, I had just arrived at the amusement park. I could go on the first ride that caught my eye, and then the next. But now, at this stage of my life, I’ve spent a good part of the day at that amusement park already. I’m starting to think about what rides  I most want to go on before I have to leave. It’s a different perspective altogether, with different priorities.

I know. If younger people are reading, or were to read, this, I suspect they might protest. I would have too. Of course younger people know their life will come to an end. I did too. We all do.

But that knowledge has transformed somehow inside of me with the passing years. That knowledge now colors and informs decisions I make like never before. Where do I want to live? Because, realistically, how many more moves do I really have in me? The knowledge of my mortality informs daily choices I make. Do I really need another print book? How am I going to get rid of all the books we have already collected?

Most importantly, that knowledge informs the quality of the relationships I have with other people. Do I really have time for hurt feelings or disappointment? Maybe disappointment is a choice I can choose not to make.

Today would have been my mother’s 80th birthday. Her days ran out sometime during her 78th year. Do I have twenty more years, thirty or more, only 5? I have no way to know.

You might link I am maudlin or morose. But quite the opposite is true. I am on a challenging journey to find the light. I want those days left in my basket, however many there are, to shine. To really shine.



25 thoughts on “A passing thought”

  1. Christine, I appreciate your thoughts. To know there are less days ahead than behind is wise. At 72, I find each day as an opportunity to live each moment with purpose. Within there is a peace, as I see this earthly life winding down and an eternal life soon to come. I wish you well in your journey. (John 3:16)

    1. Thanks, Butch. I suppose I should have already been living each moment with purpose, but up until this point, life got in the way. What a concept.

  2. Excellent introspection. I share your views. 70 is coming up for me in a couple months and the prospect of only 30 years left makes me sad.

  3. Your thoughts here coincide with my own in the past several years. I was just talking to my mother this morning about the subject of accumulated stuff. She’s 85 now and not very mobile anymore. She was saying how she was wondering if she should start getting rid of the stuff that belonged to my step-father who died a few years ago. I encouraged her that she should and if there was anything of value she should sell now so she can use the money for herself.

    I’ve been trying to get rid of a lot of the stuff I have. I need the money and I don’t need all of the accumulation. I’m sure we’ll have at least one more move ahead of us and the less stuff we have to move the better off we’ll be. Possessions enslave us. As long as I’m still able I’d rather travel and spend time with my kids and grandkids.

    Time goes too quickly as we grow older. At least that’s the illusion.

    Tossing It Out

    1. I don’t think it’s an illusion. I think time does go by more quickly. Because the passing of time is how we experience it. And when you’ve got 50 or 60 years behind you, a year becomes a much smaller percentage of your life than say the 10% it was when you were 10.

      It takes a hard, realistic, view of our life to be able to get rid of the stuff. We got the stuff at some point because we liked and wanted it, at least most of it. It takes admitting that we are not going to be around forever and won’t need or be able to use or keep these things to declutter our lives. I hope your mother is strong enough to do that difficult task, but I think the older we get, the less likely we are going to be to be capable of physically acomplishing it. It is hard work.

      Good luck to you. Let me know how it goes.

  4. I don’t think you’re maudlin or morose at all. I do think the loss of our parents puts us in a frame of mind where we consider the finite days we have been alloted. My parents died when I was in my twenties. I’ve been considering my own mortality for a long time, especially as I neared the age my mom was when she died. I’m there now, and living every day to the fullest, and blessed to be in a place where I can call my time my own. A C.S. Lewis quote comes to mind: “There are far better things ahead than any that lie behind.”

    1. Thanks for your comment Linda. I was wondering if this whole mindset happened earlier to people who were forced to face their mortality at a young age. I guess so. My father was like you. His father died in his 60s and his mother died when she was 70. I remember him being concerned he wouldn’t see his later years. He celebrated his 80th birthday, although it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not he was fully aware of that.

      I think I am getting better about being in the moments. I used to have my head in the future, preparing myself for what was happening next. I don’t do that so much anymore.

      Its nice to think that C.S. Lewis was right, and I hope he was. But it’s hard to imagine better days than some of those I’ve had.

  5. A lovely introspection Christine. We need to think about this and to seek to make each day matter, to cease the accumulation of things that someone else will have to dispose of for us. I was thinking the other day of the number of people who spend their last days in a room in a nursing home and wondering about all the stuff they accumulated before that point. We get so caught up in things that don’t matter, we sometimes forget to live. I especially appreciated your comment about holding on to disappointments and such. it does seem rather a waste of our remaining time,doesn’t it?

    1. I think you’ve always been particularly good at seeing those things that really matter, Joss. I think you’re particular struggles and journey have strengthened you in that way. That’s my 2-cent analysis for you.

      In the case of my father, who spent his last days in a nursing home, all things he accumulated we disposed of one way or the other. And I don’t think he would have necessarily chosen that for us, but I think what happens is that people don’t do the downsizing soon enough. We accumulate with the idea that we want to have something forever. We’ll watch the DVDs whenever we want; read the book again; fit into the clothes next year. . .and so on. By the time we realize none of that is true, we may be too feeble or lacking the energy to move the mountains of stuff we have on shelves and in closets. I think we have to do it before we think we need to. We’ll see how many of my prized possessions I’m willing to part with as the days and years go on.

      But you’re absolutely right. We don’t have time to hold on to the negative things that happen to us. We never did.

  6. I don’t think you’re maudlin. I’ve been thinking the same kinds of things. Also more since both my parents died. They only got to live to 75 which now seems so young as I approach 60. After they died I had a total mid life crisis. What if I only get 75 years? What if it’s LESS?! What do I truly want to be doing if there is only a little bit more time? I get what you’re saying about young people now. I realize at work that I’m that old lady that is becoming irrelevant to them. I’m starting to feel marginalized. But that I’m this old and even understand the concept of marginalized makes me feel a bit better.

    1. Haha. I guess there’s always a silver lining. We understand each other. Doesn’t that feel good? I’ve realized I need to spend more time with folks my own age. Of course, that won’t necessary help me stay either relevant or on top of current culture. It’s a price I might be willing to pay to feel appreciated and not alone.

  7. What a phenomenal topic to post about! I would agree – my daughter and her husband do see their days as an endless basket, while her Dad and I do not. It’s not morose, but it does make us prioritize and choose more carefully what we want to do with our time and money. I’m really glad you wrote about this and put a voice to my thoughts.


  8. So many thoughts touched upon here, Christine.

    * I like your analogy of the amusement park ~ since our teens, we’ve gained experience in 1000’s of ways that help us choose better how to spend our remaining time here. Kids, in contrast, have to try things in order to gain that type of life experience.

    * Deciding where you want to live is a great starting point. We are in Florida because I decided that I’d had enough cold weather for one lifetime. The fact that my sister was in Orlando made the decision easier.

    * Moving to a smaller place while letting go of LOTS of STUFF has freed up time for us to enjoy our remaining years . . . however many years we end up having.

    BTW: I think you would enjoy my post today ~ it’s about not hanging on to yesterday’s nonsense (e.g., hurt feelings, disappointment, regret).

  9. Great post Christine. The death of parents or those of others brings our own death into focus, and perhaps more significantly, brings living into focus. We don’t have time to waste..and time is speeding up. Thank you for this thoughtful post.
    Garden of Eden Blog

  10. I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s been giving a lot of thought to the number of days left in the basket. Turning 30, 40, or even 50 didn’t faze me at all…but 60 has been a big deal. I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to miss when I leave this world…how much time I have left…what I want my legacy to be….

  11. Just finished reading your book about your sister Annie. Now that I feel I know your family I am so much more sad that your folks are gone. I just wanted to send my condolences again. I was thinking about my own quite a bit this Memorial Day weekend. I think they’re all around us somewhere and that’s comforting.

    1. Sorry it took me so long to respond, Dawn. We were in Europe with spotty internet. My parents have been on my mind a lot again lately. It kind of comes and goes. Do you find that’s true too? I really miss them. Thanks for reading Annie’s story. I’m glad I did it while my mom was able to know. She loved it.

  12. Hi Christine! I’ve gotten behind, but saved all your email links to read. I’ve been reconsidering things, too–like the book. It’s time for me to stop adding to and start subtracting from the things in this house. When we make major purchases, I wonder if this is the last washer/dryer/couch we’ll own. We don’t know how many days are left, but I agree, we should make the most of them!


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