As some of you know, my dad is in the midst of dying today. I have been with him most of the week in Indiana. It looks like today or tomorrow will be the day. When I was 5 my dad spurned the church, his faith, and unfortunately his family as well. So this was a relationship of the odd weekend. I am sure he tried in the scattered times he had with us, but decisions like this create a certain distance. There have been numerous attempts to invite my dad back into the circle of grace, but he has remained at a distance. Here are a few thoughts from this Easter week with death so prominent.
I Heard It This Week
I heard the clock this week, and it has me thinking. All of us have the same clock, but many of us never notice its existence. Yet it is always there. It is not like the normal clocks that we hang on our wall. Those clocks are very predictable, and chime in regular intervals. Every 60 minutes, those clocks chime, chirp, or even cuckoo. Yet the clock I am talking about does not operate like this. It does not chime in any recognizable pattern, but when it does, the chime is very loud. Yet most people know when this clock chimes. Learning to ride a bike – chime. Graduate from high school – chime. Wedding day – loud chime. Baby’s first steps – chime. Now you understand, because you have heard these chimes as well.
In between all of these chimes, the clock sits in the background and ticks away. Most people do not hear the ticking. In fact, many people are unaware of the clock’s existence, even when they hear these chime-worthy moments. If we are lucky, and if we live well, we will not only hear the chimes, but we will hear the ticking. We will not hear it all the time, and early in life we might be oblivious to the sound, but the wise people among us will hear this clock tick.
I heard the clock this week. The first day was last Sunday, on Easter. I love Easter. I love the signs of the newly arriving Spring. I love the young boys adjusting to the unfamiliar tie they are wearing, and the little girls in their new, patent leather shoes. I love the young ladies in the lovely new dress, and families posing for a quick family picture they will someday look back on, and smile. I love we celebrate a day whose core meaning is literally new life.
After church last week my son and his wife came over to our house for dinner and dessert. After we had eaten my son said, “dad, I brought my glove. Do you want to play catch?” Catch is something that was a hallmark of our home, especially when Adam was young. Yet once Adam started playing in high school and college, catch with dad was not helpful for his development. In its place was the chance to watch my son play, which was more enjoyable for a dad anyway. SO last Sunday I grabbed my glove, and played catch with my son again in the backyard. I love Easter, but the best thing I did on Easter was play catch again. As we played catch, I heard the clock. It was faint, but I heard it's distinctive sound.
The rest of this past week I heard the clock tick very loudly. I drove to Indiana to be with my own dad, who was admitted to the hospital. I sat next to my dad, and tried to talk as his own understanding of where he was and what was happening slipped away. As I sat in his room the clock was very loud, but the clock that was ticking was not my clock, but his. His clock has one more, loud chime to make. It could be any hour, but it will probably chime in the hospital where I sat this week.
The ticking of my dad’s clock was almost deafening, but I am not sure he heard it. I am not sure he has ever heard the sound of his clock. It is a great blessing to hear the sound of your own clock. Being able to hear your own clock is sobering, and even annoying at times, but it is one of life’s great blessings. When you hear your own clock, it reminds you of what is important. When you hear the sound of your own clock, it reminds you to stop and take a mental picture, because what is happening at the moment is a picture you are going to want to keep in your mind. Hearing your own clock is a constant reminder of who is important, and why they are important. The sound of your clock ticking in the background has a way of guiding your decisions in life.
As I sat in the hospital room, I wondered how life would have been different if dad had heard his clock. I have no way of knowing. But as I looked at this man, who in many ways was utterly alone, I could not help but think of what had been lost. I wonder if my dad was hearing the clock this week. I know I did.
A long time ago, the Psalmist wrote, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” I suppose many of us don’t like to number our days, it is a reminder that we have a limited amount. Yet people who know there is a limited supply of our days value them differently. I think that is why the writer of Psalm 90 pleads for God to teach us to number our days. I think hearing our clock is the same thing, and it is a good thing to hear. It is uncomfortable, but good. Whatever else happens this week, I heard my clock this week