This piece is a part of the series 30 Words In 30 Days.
Aging is the one thing we can’t control. Every single year on the exact same day, whether we want it or not, we officially get older and lose an age that’ll never return to us. You will never again be 10 or 16 or 21. Those years are gone forever. And if they’re not gone for you yet, enjoy them. They only last 365 days. 366, if you’re lucky.
Just last week a friend asked me if I ever imagine what it’d be like to go back to when I was younger, knowing what I know now, and doing it all over again. Of course I do. My guess is that you do too, at least from time to time. Yet we all know this is a futile endeavor. We can’t go back and do things over. We get one shot and one shot only at each day. This is the great burden of caring for our fragile and precious minutes and hours with utmost respect and appreciation. But I’ve come to believe that this is also one of God’s most amazing gifts. It is the gift of holiness covering each of our moments – the good, the bad, the mundane. The Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel reminds us, There are no two hours alike. Every hour is unique and the only one given at the moment, exclusive and endlessly precious.
The average life expectancy in the U.S. is just over 78 years. This amounts to about 28,500 days. I’ve already lived 12,783 of those days, meaning that I’m closing in on the halfway point, assuming I make it to the expected age. And not a single day has been quite like any of the others. Each one, unique and subtly spectacular. Some days have been full of boundless joy. But like you, I’ve had many days full of sadness and pain. And each one has been covered in holiness, set apart by God to be unlike any other day in human history, truly once-in-a-lifetime, teaching me and shaping me.
If you’ve never heard Sleeping At Last’s song Uneven Odds, go listen to it now and thank me later. The song tells a story of loss and pain and the stark reality that there’s no respite from the relentless flow of time’s often treacherous waters. These waters can be frighteningly dark, seemingly without rhyme or reason. And yet, even in the darkness comes forth a gift. The gift of light.
As the years move on these questions take shape
Are you getting stronger or is time shifting weight?
No one expects you to understand
Just to live what little life your mended heart can
Maybe your light is the seed
And the darkness the dirt
In spite of the uneven odds
Beauty lifts from the earth
From the earth
You’re much too young now
So I write these words down,
“Darkness exists to make light truly count.”
Time passes through us at the same dogged and determined pace it’s been keeping up since the beginning of…well…time. As you well know, it brings with it many troubles and hardships. And in those moments, from our deepest and most desperate places, we will want nothing more than for time to stop, to give us a breather, to let us sit a while to rest before moving on. But rest will not come. Re-do’s will not be handed out. Our tickets of regret cannot be redeemed for added time. What we get is what we get. And what we get is often darkness and dirt. But may we remember today, in this very moment, this exclusive and endlessly precious moment, that darkness exists to make light truly count.