My great uncle died one morning last week. That afternoon they buried him. Jewish tradition has you bury the deceased as soon as possible after they pass. They don’t dilly-dally. Chick-chock.
This uncle was the brother of the grandfather I mentioned here, and the son of the great-grandmother I mentioned here. (Who apparently, was totally obsessed with sparkly clothing. Go figure.) My grandfather is one of nine siblings and this was the youngest. He was just a baby when his family was brought to the concentration camps in Nazi Germany and it’s a true miracle that he, or any of them, survived.
I remember being a little kid and going to his house. There was a pool and a lake where some of my cousins would go fishing, but I never did that because the worms were so gross. I was heartbroken to hear he’d died, He was a funny, big hearted guy who loved to smile. One of my first thoughts after hearing he’d passed was “He knew about the twins so now they’ve got yet another amazing person to look out for them.” (How I manage to make this about me might be a little disturbing, or at the very least self-indulgent, I know, but I’m just being honest- that thought crossed my mind.)
Anyway, we were at the cemetery early and I found myself wandering through a section with really, really old headstones. Some of them were 200 years old. 200 years!! It’s amazing that somehow we have found enough land upon which to bury all the bodies of all the people that want to be buried and that there are not graves like, everywhere you step. I mean, logistically, how does that work? When do they run out of space to put these people? It boggles my mind.
But back to my point. I was looking at the headstones from 150 / 200 years ago and I was surprised to see how many of them wrote out how long the person lived for.
You might be confused by that sentence, after all, basically every headstone shares the dates of the person’s birth and death, right? Why would I be surprised by that?
But that’s not what the oldest headstones said. They actually shared the number of years, months and days that the person lived. Look:
There will come a day when each of us has had our fill of days when we are blessed to walk this earth. When you see it, like that, engraved in stone- stone that has sat in it’s place for 200 years it really hits home.
Every day is a gift. Every day is an opportunity. Every day is one day closer to our last day. When my day comes I want to know that I LIVED those days.
There is something about marking time on the gravestone in that way that I really do love. Defining our time in the number of years and months and days spent here, on this earth, in this body, somehow it makes it feel like it’s just part of a longer, infinite, beautiful journey. A life, not defined by the dates on a calendar but defined by the time spent living it.
When your time comes, will you want to look back on the amount of time you lived, or look back on how you lived in the amount of time you had?