By: magnolia_admin | October 2, 2017
I walked in a home to carry the dead away. The owner’s dish from breakfast sat in his sink, unwashed. He ran out of time to take care of it. His books sat on his shelves. His clock ticked on, running. But his time came.
The walls are lined with pictures – many of them old. Happy times – or times that pretended to be happy. Children. Parents. And neighbors waiting outside whisper to me “the kids won’t be here. They’re estranged.” So I look at the wall of pictures of people he doesn’t speak to. Whatever the grudge, the time for mending has passed. His pictures on the wall are just more things. Things he placed in his home so carefully – centering them on the wall and running a dust rag over the tops often enough to keep cobwebs away. They are still clear and clean. He has so many. But the things that matter, the things that aren’t things. They aren’t here.
So many houses, still and empty, where the only witness to death was silence. Homes where people surrounded themselves with junk that piled up between the walls until a path had to be carved through the rooms. Homes where the walls are bare and the furnishings stark. Surrounded by much, little, valuables, trash – we go. Hours, days, years. It all becomes the same.
And our things – our things. I’ve heard people proclaim “well they aren’t getting anything when I die, I don’t want them to have a thing.” As if it matters. As if our treasures mean anything to anyone but ourselves.
Our greatest treasures are things we dust. Or don’t dust, depending on our attention to housekeeping. And our ultimate reward to our family for their love is to be the recipient of more things to dust.
We spend our time dusting our things. Things our families don’t want. Things that don’t matter. Things that, in the end, they can’t keep themselves.
Only time. You can only leave time – time you spent with them. Time you invested in their lives, in their futures, in their joy.
I was born yesterday morning. Last night I was still young. Today I scramble backwards. And tonight I will die.
That is how it feels.
But perhaps not – perhaps days and years stretch ahead of me. Time is so fleeting – who is to know when mine is even half gone. And someday it’s all history – but everyone is focused on the past or the future or the hereafter and isn’t involved in now.
I entered this business twenty-five years ago, and yet I still don’t know the best ways to comfort, to lead, to commemorate. All I have learned is the value of time. It slips through our fingers like dust, and the longer you spend scrabbling at the ground trying to recover it, the more you lose.
I do not believe in fear.
That is not to say I am never afraid.
But I do not fear time.
My grandparents died almost twenty years ago; I would give worlds to speak to them again. I wouldn’t ask for any wise advice, or engage in any philosophical conversations. Just sit with them outside, talking about nothing at all. Waste time together. I have no regrets about the time we had because I embraced it when it came by. No regrets about the passed time – I only wish for more of it.
I do not fear time robbing my life for this reason: I have learned to value it.
And here is what a rapidly aging funeral director is spending his lifetime learning:
I close the door behind me on the clean picture frames and dirty dishes.
I leave the empty house that is full of things.
Shadows skirt across the yard.
I glance at my watch and notice that it is later than I had thought.
I take my time loading the dead.
Too Slow for those who Wait,
Too Swift for those who Fear,
Too Long for those who Grieve,
Too Short for those who Rejoice,
But for those who Love,
Time is not.
~ Henry van Dyke