All I know, time is a valuable thing
Watch it fly by as the pendulum swings
Watch it count down to the end of the day
The clock ticks life away …
… I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter
This past week at work I sat in a quiet, dimly lit room and held the hand of a dying woman, while a few doors down the family of another woman was doing the same thing with their loved one. Two days later, I sat with another dear lady as the nursing staff turned from her husband who had just suffered a heart attack, feet away from us, to inform her he was gone. I was nearby as all three of these precious people made their one-way journey across the threshold of this realm.
There’s nothing that sobers you up more to what’s important in life, than watching the pendulum of someone’s earthly existence slow, and then stop swinging.
Our clock still ticks. The pendulum still swings. We try to fill each of those once-in-a-lifetime-moments between swings with stuff we think matters. Stuff we hope matters. We want to live meaningful lives. We want to make a difference. We plow ahead, making choices, trying hard, getting far. We even make sacrifices.
But in the end …
…when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.
– King Solomon
Both the world’s most accomplished, wisest, richest ancient man and a current superstar millionaire rapper dude allude to the same thing that can be gleaned from being present during the extremely down-to-earth, as-close-as-you-can-get-to-experiencing-the-frailness-of-humanity moment of a person’s final breaths:
What really matters.
The first woman I sat with this week had no family with her, however the staff came into her room around the clock to care for her, talk to her, sing to her, hold her hand, stroke her hair. The second woman had family sitting at her bedside the entire time, offering the support of their presence. The third, being as sudden of a situation as it was, asked immediately for her children.
In the end, what really matters? Not the things we’ve toiled for. Not the things we’ve chased after. Not our good intentions, great ideas, glorious accomplishments.
What’s really going to matter are people. Our true relationships. Our family. Our friends. Those whose lives have intersected ours in meaningful ways. The familiar voices. The comforting touches. The presence of people we love, and who love us back. That’s what will really matter in the end.
And that’s what really matters now.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be ambitious, follow our dreams, or work towards reaching our goals. Not at all. There are lots of things that have value and do matter; lots of things that give our life meaning in the here and now, in the immediate present tense, and give us hope for our future. Lots of things that can make our world a better place; things we can and should be doing. Those things are good and shouldn’t be ignored or discredited. But as wise man, rapper dude, and death all suggest: there are only very few things that really matter. In the end.
As you fill the pendulum swings of your life with things that matter, be sure to identify and fully invest in the things that really matter.
Do not save your loving speeches
For your friends till they are dead;
Do not write them on their tombstones,
Speak them rather now instead.
– Anna Cummins