Sitting across from a man abandoned by time and lost in circumstance moving faster than his emotions and any ability to actually absorb all that was happening, I looked into his eyes that were mirrors for just a moment.
It was just me and him sitting there, both aware. The woman he loved was there, but not completely. Teetering somewhere between him and death was precisely where she was at, her body being swallowed by death in the form of cancer.
“It spread faster than we ever imagined. We love each other.”
“I’m certain you do, sir. I can tell by the way you hold her hand, gently and protectively.”
He asked for a moment. He was sinking in the confusing realization that it would not be too long before they were finally separated by her death. The consolation, her suffering would be over. That is only the smallest solace that is quickly overrun by the untimely arrival of death. I left the room as he started to talk to her.
Waiting just outside her hospital room in the hustle of nurses and doctors, therapists and social workers and families walking by with either a look of relief or grief, I thought about death and circumstance and time. I was a face wandering through the hustling halls of a hospital not long ago. My look was one of grief. Circumstance was insurmountable no matter how badly I wanted something different. Time lost meaning and the days just spun in circles. And sitting there, right outside of this dying woman’s hospital room where this man was me and I was him once, time found me as I tried to fight back tears for a man and his wife who had no more time together. Inside of this room, the man knew it, too. So did she, the one he wanted to marry.
Something he told me just continually replayed in my head. “She was scheduled to begin a newly released drug that just got approved in two days. It is supposed to be the best thing for melanoma.” No matter how effective that drug truly was, it didn’t make a difference. It couldn’t, and it wouldn’t. There was no time.
It is true that there is no time like the present. But those are usually the words of men spooked by fear, bothered by failure and haphazardly walking into what they may or may not quite be ready for. The glaring truth is that the present is all that we really have. It is all that truly exists. And the present time is full despite what the day before or the day impending after, or even the very next moment, may hold.
Now is both a promise and an opportunity. Tomorrow is neither with absolute certainty and yesterday has come and gone.
With my work badge hanging on my belt, wearing dress clothes typical for me during my work day and while setting up this woman’s end of life care, I realized that for a good part of the last year and a half, I have been swaying between the aftermath of the death of the woman who once so lovingly and incredibly was my wife and the life glimmering and shining with promise just ahead. Yesterday and tomorrow defining my response to today. And it’s been killing me.
For the very few absolutely amazing things gracefully existing in my life right now today, there is no time to live with the weight of yesterday or the pressure of tomorrow. I must allow today to be valued only by the time that it contains. Otherwise, I’ll worry away people and possibility that I love.
Today is here, and it is happening now. May it continue to be a miraculous result of God’s unending, persistent grace. And let it be an announcement echoing within my heart to love those in my life easily and live the day thoroughly in the moments given now.