This summer, I was hospitalized for nearly a week while doctors worked and watched to discern whether I had a heart attack, a blood clot, or acute heart failure--and what to do about it. Now I measure my health by the numbers: systolic, diastolic, heart rate, brain naturopeptide, blood glucose, blood urea nitrogen, creatinine, troponin, ejection fraction, blood oxygen--the numbers never seem to end. The numbers are no longer confined to my lab test results--now I'm asked to take my own measurements and record the numbers, from the moment I first get up in the morning until I close my eyes at night. It's a struggle not to become obsessed with numbers.
But there is no life in numbers, whether they rise or fall. The question becomes, not how to measure my health, which is clearly departing, but how to measure the remaining life I have been given.
Will it be measured in decades, years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds? Or will it be in lives and hearts touched, eyes met, smiles exchanged? In depth of conversation, the confirmation of meaning, purpose, and hope? In spiritual gifts uncovered, named, acknowledged and stirred up? In spiritual journeys accompanied and joys shared?
On the eve of Richard's death, I wonder had Richard been blessed with a longer life, how would have made use of the opportunity to serve as a faithful example of how to age, how to die. As it is, we need to be satisfied with the example he gave of how to live. And rather than look to him for an example at this season of my life, I find myself drawn to the living examples of Quaker elders around me as my health abates. As I look at them, I am aware that this is not a time of life to declare spiritual bankruptcy, withdraw my support or to become miserly with my gifts, but a time to freely share the truth the Inner Teacher has set in my heart. It is not a time to hesitate to plant the seeds that will only thrive after my departure, but rather a time to share the light I have have grown in with those who will remain.
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.