“What time is it?”“It’s time to die.”
Although the conversation between Mamma and her oncologist several months ago didn’t exactly happen with those words, that’s what the doctor meant when he relayed Mamma’s test results to us. Most people would greet such news with fear and sadness. Clearly, my mom had already laid those emotions aside and felt that she was ready to go.
She asked directly, “How long do I have to live?”
The doctor hesitated, the look on his face betraying his lack of confidence, “Maybe six months to a year.”
Mamma replied, “I sure hope it doesn’t take that long. I’ve had a long, wonderful life—plenty to be grateful for.”
With that, we embraced the beginning of the final chapter of Mamma’s life journey. Pain management and physical diminishment have dominated this path. Blessedly, Mamma’s mind remains sharp as ever, allowing her to make major decisions regarding her care. Clearly, the end of the road is near, and we’re all at peace with that. The arduous part is the waiting, and in the waiting we’re drawn to considerable pondering, including pondering our relationships with time.
“What time is it?” Mamma asks.
In her world today, it may be time to wake up, time to eat or watch TV, time to take her medicine, time to pray a rosary, or time to sleep.
Our relationships with time must be managed, kept in order. In today’s constant-motion culture, no one likes to be kept waiting, but God has a completely different mode of operation. There really is “all the time in the world” in eternity. It’s never “time” to do anything in eternity, and yet simultaneously, it’s always “time” to do whatever God wants. Time is an earthly, human construction. We measure time and keep track of events with our tool of time, but God doesn’t need it at all. Clearly, one of the things we must reckon with and detach from as we prepare to enter eternal life with God is this human connection with time.
Time doesn’t matter to God in the sense that God relishes working slowly—inefficiently, in our view. For God, each life lived is always more about the journey than the destination. While we’re here, our lives are not about us, personally, but instead are considered by how we live them in relation to others. When our earthly journeys end, we’ll live with God forever. Allowing God to do his work, through us, is the ultimate life skill for both now and eternity: surrender.
What time is it?It’s always time to trust God and his merciful love.
It’s always time to love all of God’s creation—even those we find most difficult to love. (Sometimes, that’s ourselves.)
It’s always time to forgive, as Jesus clearly models.
It’s always time to be grateful and to appreciate the journey’s countless opportunities to live by dying to ourselves, even when God keeps us waiting.