"Do human beings ever realize life while they live it?" 'Emily Webb,' Our Town.
Had a conversation this evening with some folks who were contemplating this very idea. One of my friends, as she looked back at the days when her now-married kids were in high school, was lamenting that she didn't really savor those days. Those sweet days just sped by while she wasn't paying attention. I instantly thought of Our Town, and the day the character Emily Webb was given to return to her life after being dead. Everything is so poignant to her, from her little brother to her mother, just busy making breakfast. She pleads with her mother to look at her, to just stop a moment to really look at her, but Ma Webb can't. She has bacon and eggs to fry, lunches to make. Slowing down isn't part of the plan.
And so it is for us. Just a couple of weeks ago, SK (who is currently in Uruguay) commented that she can hardly believe she's halfway through college. I told her, "Time only moves faster." She thinks these days are quickly passing, just wait until she's my age. Wasn't it only yesterday that I had three children under the age of 4, spent my life with Sesame Street, Marble Works, Polly Pockets, Shoots and Ladders, and "Can I have a snack? A drink? I need to pee. J hit me, she's looking at me," and tears--oh the tears. Baby tears, angry tears, tired tears, "But I'm not tired" tears. Didn't I finally just close my eyes and sleep straight through the night for the first time in years just last night? Wasn't it just this morning that I was standing at the end of our road watching my oldest in a brand new dress climb onto a school bus for the first time? Wasn't it merely a half day ago, that I was taxiing them all over town to various activities and obligations? I could swear I'm still wearing the same pjs I wore when I was pregnant with each of them (Ok, I really am...it's an old hospital scrub Beve traded for when he was working at a sports camp in Arkansas during college!).
My point is, like my friend, like Thorton Wilder's Emily of Grover's Corner, I think I've been so busy living, that most of the time I don't stop and savor the wonder of each season, let alone each day. Yes, I'm thankful (as someone else said tonight) that I have my memories, but if I've learned anything lately it's that memories can disappear. All I have--all any of us have on this earth--is one single moment at a time.We don't have the privilege, like the fictional Emily Webb did, of returning to some earlier moment in our history. We walk, run or skip (if we're lucky!) on this one way-street that always ends in the same place--breathing out one final breath in these bodies. What we have, therefore, is this: We can either be like Mrs. Webb, bustling about our lives without ever noticing what's right beneath our noses, OR we can breathe in wonder, and expel what doesn't count. Those things, I might say, that don't last. Because just as sure as this life is like a whisper of time, that solid is eternity. And I believe that the only way to really know life while I live it, the only way to taste and see that this life--this day, this very moment--is good, is by tasting and seeing that the Lord is good.
So I let it flood over me--all those days with my tiny children, all those teaching moments in the car as I drove them to and from school, church, activities, all those conversations with my now adult children--I smell them as a sweet aroma tonight, and thank God for them. Thank Him that my times--our time together!--is in His hands.
PS. Today is my mother's 79th birthday. I wonder if she had a clue. Since she doesn't even know her own name, I'm guessing not.