As the school year winds down and the graduation ceremonies and parties gear up, you hear the same parental refrain: Make Time Stop. And I get it, I felt similar emotions when my oldest was graduating from high school. Then, I was gathering up moments from babyhood through elementary school and beyond and holding them close to my heart, balled up in closed fists. Even during mundane moments around the house, I couldn’t keep the tears in. I just knew everything in our family was about to change, and it was a hard time for me.
I see things differently now.
Things do change, and that’s not something we can control, but it should be something we favor. After all, the freezing of time does happen on occasion, but we would never sign up for it if we knew just how. For the families of four young men from my hometown who died in a car wreck on a Saturday afternoon, time has stopped. For them, there will be no more proms or milestones, no high school graduations. Their babies will be sixteen, and seventeen, forever.
For the families of sick children, time slows. We had a family friend in the hospital for a long stretch this past year, and for his family, time took on the shape of his hospital room and the progress of his healing, measured in cups of hospital cafeteria coffee and heartbeats. Their experience of the slowing of time is not something you would wish for.
It is easy to believe that life is doled out on a time schedule, because that is how our society frames it. Thirteen years K-12, then another four, maybe more after that. Career, marriage, children, and then set up the clock to watch the next generation do it all again. But time isn’t fixed. It weaves and slows and speeds up. Ask any mother of young children in August about the length of a day. Ask a new widower about the span of a year.
They say as you get older, time speeds up, and that is in part a mathematical equation. Summer as a nine year old felt endless to me, and it almost was. It was only 1/36 of my life to that point. This summer season will be my forty-sixth, or 1/184 of my life. You might imagine it will feel faster than a childhood summer. We’ll see.
I’m finally learning to try to be present in moments instead of seasons, encounters instead of years. The clock is ticking, no doubt about it, but none of us know when it will stop. It sounds trite to say it, but it’s true. The clock is not a friend and all we have is today, right now. Time is not ours to slow down or to stop, but to enjoy and use the best we can. As my mother would say, “This too shall pass.” Let’s keep going.
From a song I remember my Mom playing over and over again when I was little. I even sang it for a Mother’s Day tape my Dad made when I was about eight or nine. I didn’t get it then, but I do now.
I’ve been up and down and around about and back again
Been so many places, I can’t remember where or when
And my only boss was the clock on the wall, and my only friend
Never really was a friend at all