Is it possible I’ve been in England at Hans and Katy’s house for 12 days already? That’s what the calendar says, but none of us believe it. Although we haven’t done much running around and have lived our days at home base, the hours have flown by, and it’s nearly time for me to climb back on a plane and head home.
While Hans has been at work, Katy and I have been consumed with the daily tending of their young flock. Nicholas cut another tooth this week, and we’ve celebrated Katy’s father’s birthday with a multi-course feast. Hans has explained his plan for their large vegetable garden and pointed out the herbs he’s already growing. We’ve pushed the triple stroller uphill and hiked along sheep pastures. I’ve marveled at watching Hans make a cream sauce that went over asparagus, which went over salmon. But mostly we’ve all participated in parenting and grandparenting, and that’s what I’ll miss most when it comes time to leave.
The last time I saw Nicholas was during the weeks of Nate’s illness and death. He was only ten months old, and when I saw him this time, he had no recollection of our relationship. Nearly seven months had gone by, during which he’d changed dramatically. How much more time will slip past us all before we can be together again? I try not to think about it. And of course the changes in Nicholas between now and then will be nothing compared with the changes in the twins.
Nate used to tap on his watch face with his index finger and say, “Nobody beats this guy.”
As a grandma, I’ve been labeling “distance” as my enemy, when in reality the enemy has been “time”. Its relentless march never slows, not for a second. Katy, Hans and I have had lengthy conversations this week during our evenings together, recently chatting about the passing of time. We’ve looked back and seen how we wasted it as youths and only appreciated time’s value when we seemed to have very little of it. I see these two young parents, fresh and strong in their mid-twenties, as having most of their lives ahead of them, while I view my life as waning. In truth, none of that may be accurate, since we can’t predict our futures.
When Hans and Katy called last year to announce a new baby would be coming this spring, I thought Nate and I would be traveling together to meet him or her (him and her, as it turned out). But time ran out sooner than we thought it would. This harsh reality, that time ends in different lives for different reasons, hovers over all of us.
Scripture puts the whole thing into perspective, describing our lives as a morning mist. In other places we’re likened to early dew that disappears, chaff swirling from a threshing floor or smoke escaping through a window. God is telling us that earthly life is fleeting and brief, over before we know it. Compared to eternity, it doesn’t matter much. When we ponder that broad truth, the ongoing mini-crises in our lives fall into proper perspective, and we become free to stop worrying, even about when we’ll next visit the children and grandchildren we love.
”You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)