Nearly 10 years ago when my mother passed at the age of 76, my father, then 77, said, as he stood by her grave, “I’ll be next. Maybe God will give me 3 years." He continued, "Maybe I’ll make 80, then I’ll join my bride.” I felt he wanted just 3 years to relax and recover from over 40 years of her struggle with MS, a struggle they shared together. For anyone who knows chronic, progressive disease, nothing else needs to be said. When we had a surprise 80th birthday party for him, he said as he blew out the candles, “just 5 more years. Maybe God will give me till 85.” He’s done all right since then. He misses my mother terribly and speaks of her often. The story of their life together, and the disease that he feels “destroyed” so much of it, is still spoken of amongst the memories.
He turned 87 in January and when I visited him recently in Florida, he said, “I don’t want to go past 90. 3 more years, that’s all.” He still goes about his daily business. Plays golf weekly. Goes to Mass. Sees his friends and visits family. Cooks his vegetables, you should see his fridge…a rainbow of colors…of course, I believe these eating habits have contributed to his overall health and wellbeing. But, he gets frustrated that his body “just doesn’t have the strength it once had.” He has always kept going and I guess he feels that you just do, until you don’t.
Thankfully, I have his tenacity to just keep going and I began to wonder, if I am blessed with continued good health and independence until 87, will I plan out those “last 3 years?" Will I finish up all that I want to do in this lifetime in those “last 3 years?" See all who I want to see, of those who are still around? Will I do that, just so if 90 comes and goes, I can sit and rest and meditate on my "borrowed time" at that point?
Everyone ponders these thoughts at some time or another in their life, if they live long enough. I feel that the goal should be to live mindfully and consciously, with gratitude, and in the moment. When I think of accidents and illnesses that could have taken me out of this life had I been born in an era before certain modern day medicines and procedures were able to spare me, I am already grateful to be living each day on "borrowed time."
For now, I’d like to plan a trip with my father out West, to see some sites he hasn’t seen yet and to visit some family. Time passes quickly and while he is planning on the next 3 years before he enters eternity, I am very much conscious of the luxury this option to count down is. How an understanding of the serenity prayer and to everything there is a season really takes on a profound meaning the older you get.