Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Borrowed Time

Time, as we think of it, does not exist.

Some speak of borrowed time, as if we could stack up units of time like bricks, and borrow a few when we run short. When we’re young, we think of time as endless. Actually, we don’t think about time at all because it seems endless, and we think we have forever to do whatever we want, and if we don’t feel like working on it today, we always have tomorrow. Or the day after.

When we’re in middle age, and friends and family begin dying from cancer and accidents, we begin to realize that time is limited. Tomorrow doesn’t come for all of us. For too many of the people we love, time ends early and abruptly — parents die when we’re in our teens, children die, and friends die when they’re barely in their thirties.

Time is not a set quantity. We have this moment. That’s it.

Any thought of time beyond today is wishful thinking. We like to imagine what we will be doing in ten, twenty, and forty years, but it will probably be different than what we anticipate, and some of us won't last that long. Sketch out a general plan if you want, but do what’s important today. Help the people who need your help today.

If I had known how short my time with Ev would be, I would have lived differently. I did not realize that people could die in their forties of an unknown health problem. I would have lived each day as if it were our last day together. I would have felt immense gratitude every morning when I woke up and saw Ev smile, because I knew that we had another day.

Time only exists when we have an experience.

If I had known, I would have simplified my life and focused on the important things, like walking around the neighborhood with Evelyn holding hands, and playing more with our cats. I would have had coffee with individual friends just to see how they were doing, and not waited for the next group gathering. I would have eaten a slice of fresh pie every day.

I no longer know what I will do in the future. The future I imagined with Ev is gone. I only know what has happened in the past, and some of that I understand dimly. This leaves me this moment. What will I make of it?


A short note. My mother died this week. I will write about this later.


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about your mothers death. Time and control we lack them both. But until I experienced the death of my babies I really didn't understand how time was so important and how you spent it. It was also a bring me to my knees moment as I could not control what was happening.

    1. Thank you, Heather. She had been failing for some time, so it wasn't a surprise. But the finality of her is hard. Until someone close to us dies, I don't think any of us realize how precious each day is.

  2. Thank you for the piece about borrowed time. My husband died last July. He was 78. It was sudden and instant. No time to say goodbye. We were travelling in a foreign country. I was totally unprepared. But he realized how precious time was. He was retired yet worked every day trying to preserve his pictures. He was an avid photographer and he was trying to take old photos of our grand parents and parents and put everything online. It was a massive job and one he never totally finished. Somehow, I never quite understood until I lost him.

    1. Last July, then you are coming up on your first year anniversary, probably with some dread. Without knowing how your year has gone, I hope that you will be able to celebrate your husband in the midst of sorrow. And I am glad that your husband had his mind and body working well until the end. My mom died last week, but over the last decade we lost her to Alzheimers. The time I thought I would have to hear her tell her stories of her life was taken away. Now as I grieve her, I also grieve the stories that have been lost.