image of hourglass people

Dashing through time… (10.12.21)

image of hourglass people

One of the many things that unites us in our human existence is that none of us knows how much time we have here.

Some people will have an earthly lifespan of hours, others will have days while yet more will have years and decades. None of us will have the same experience as anyone else, even those of us with siblings, who may share a similar start in this life.

As we grow and age, our paths often diverge and lead us to experience different things at different times to those we were once closest to.

Many of us will become parents ourselves and learn what our parents might have experienced. Having cared for us, as they age, the caring responsibility often shifts and we become their carers. Doing our best to help them get the best out of whatever time they have left here.

Family functions show us we have moved from one end of the age spectrum to the other. Where once we were the ‘younger generation’ with our lives ahead of us, we now find a new generation or two following in our footsteps.

We realise some of our older relatives and friends have departed this life. We are closer to our own finish line than we’ve ever been before. Although we still won’t know how much time we actually have, we know we don’t have as much as we once did.

If we haven’t done it before, this could be the time to prioritise what we do next. To plan how and where and with whom we want to spend our most precious possession, our time.

It is true that none of us know how much time we have but some people do have their time limited by their medical condition. When all the relevant therapeutic options have been exhausted, our doctors are tasked with telling us “There are no more treatments to offer you.”

In such cases the first question many people ask is “How much time do I have?”

It is a natural human response in having to face our new reality. We’ve known all along our time here is limited and now we have someone with medical knowledge and experience telling us our finish line is in sight.

A specific timescale is of course impossible to determine due to the multiple variables involved. Our age, medical diagnosis, treatment history, physical health and mental attitude can all have an impact. We all know of people who were told “6-12 months” who departed after four. Conversely, there are those who were told “2-3 months” who are still with us a year after receiving their prognosis.

In the last year or so, two friends were told “weeks rather than months”. One passed away after nine weeks and I recently visited the other.

I have no idea what it would feel like to have to deal with such news or what thoughts would go through our minds.

As with many other experiences, none of us can be sure of our reaction until we’re in that situation.  Just like none of us know which will be the last time we see someone.

I am planning to visit my friend again and dearly hope we can meet. They’ve been in my life for more than four decades and I know we don’t have a lot of visits left. I will take each opportunity as it comes. I will make the most of the time we both have.

‘The Dash’ is a well-known poem by Linda Ellis which speaks of the dates on a headstone which state the beginning and end of a person’s life. The “dash” between those dates is the most important bit as it represents all the years and experiences of their life.

The poem is well worth reading, its closing verses are these:

“If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read,
with your life’s actions to rehash…
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent YOUR dash?”