Do You Have The Time?

Teach us to number our days,

that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

One very dark and lonely night, I sat on my couch with a box of stationery. I held it in my hands and stared at it, occasionally wiping away the tears that landed on top. I wanted to write letters to my kids for their birthdays. For the ones I wouldn’t be there to celebrate. I wasn’t sure where to start but thought maybe 14 and 15 was a good place. I had five years left at best, and I was hoping for ‘best’.

I imagined what my son and daughter would look like at 14 and 15. Would Kade still take karate? Would he have his black belt by then? Would Kalea still play softball? What should I say? What would they need to hear from me? I wondered if they would be happy, and how they would manage without me. Would Mike be okay? I planned to write him letters too, for birthdays and anniversaries, and for moments in between. What words would comfort them, remind them how much I loved them, and help them at each stage of their lives? God, give me the words.

So much swirled inside my head and heart. How could I possibly translate all those feelings through paper and pen? Overwhelmed, I started with the envelopes. I counted them out. 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 … how far should I go? Children never stopped needing their mothers but how would they feel when they opened the last one? I wasn’t sure what to do. Stuck, I moved on to Mike. Birthdays and anniversaries. Maybe a letter for holidays, advice for the kids’ big moments, and one about him finding someone else? Ugh. How would I begin? I had to write to Mom too. What would I say to her to let her know how much I loved her? And my friends? What about them? This project was growing too big and was seemingly impossible.

I pulled out the first envelope and wrote “Happy 15th Birthday, Kalea” and “2020” in the neatest handwriting I could manage with hands shaking, and pulled a fresh sheet of linen paper from the box. What should I say? Should I make it happy and upbeat? Or serious and thoughtful? I was at a loss, so I pulled out another envelope and wrote “Happy 14th Birthday, Kade” and again, the year “2020”. He was just a little boy. I imagined him at 14 years old opening this envelope instead of a present lovingly chosen and wrapped by me. I broke down again.

I held the pen in my hand for a while, but I couldn’t do it. I put the paper back in the box with the envelopes, shoved them in my closet, and cried myself to sleep. This was too hard. Why did I have to do this? Why did I have to write these letters? Why did I have to leave my family so soon?

While organizing my closet the other day, I found that box of stationery and those two envelopes written in shaky writing, a few tear stains wrinkled the paper. I ripped them up and threw them away. I would write those letters one day, but not now. I wasn’t ready. Would I ever be ready?

I didn’t want to dwell on the days I wouldn’t be here, but wanted to live the days I had left. Right here, right now.

My husband and I would celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary next week. My son would celebrate his 14th birthday next month, the same birthday I wrote on that envelope. I was here to celebrate it. I was here to celebrate it all. We would gather around the table at Thanksgiving and a couple weeks later, my daughter would blow out fifteen candles on her cake. Two weeks later, we would sing “Silent Night” at candlelight service and celebrate Christmas the next morning.

This was my favorite time of the year, five years since that night on the couch, and five years since my metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, the far end of the prognosis scale. Only about 20% of patients with metastatic breast cancer lived five years. Oh, how I prayed for these five years.

But I still wanted more. As some dreaded birthdays as they got older, I was blessed by them. It wasn’t just birthdays and anniversaries, holidays and special events though. It was every day.

The pasta dinners on a Tuesday night. The family games on a rainy weekend. The last minute day trips. The coffee runs and late night chats with the kids over chips and queso. The random conversations with Mom in the kitchen and in her room as I sprawled on her bed. The lunch dates with friends. The check-in texts and silly messages.

It was all about the time.

I wasn’t always compelled to place so much importance on birthdays and celebrations, or even the everyday moments. Things changed when I got sick. I missed so much, but I knew better now. I was disappointed when loved ones didn’t want to celebrate a milestone or special occasion, when they didn’t realize the importance I placed on a particular day or event. I was sad when friends were too busy, when they let so much time slip by without notice, not understanding how much time was wasted.

It was all about the time.

I watched this disease take loved ones away. Moms from their children. Wives from their husbands. Daughters from their mothers. And friends from friends. They didn’t want to go, but God called them home. Sometimes much faster than expected. It was their time.

It was all about the time.

I didn’t want to write those letters. Nothing I could write seemed quite good enough. I didn’t want to leave my love stuffed in envelopes, but didn’t want to leave “nothing” behind either. It was difficult for me, but would be harder on them. I would make the time though to finish those letters. One day. In the meantime, I promised to give them something more valuable.

It was all about the time.

The most precious gift I had to give was my time. Whether celebrating a birthday, a new job, or an ordinary Thursday, I did my best to spend it well. How one chose to spend time told a story – a story of what was treasured. I wanted my loved ones to know I treasured them. I would always give them my love and my time. That was all I wanted in return. Doesn’t everyone just want to know they were loved?

I would listen to them with my whole heart. I would cheer for them, and cry with them, and pray for them. I would make their favorite meals. Bake their favorite cookies. (I made it a point to know their favorite everything.) When I couldn’t be there, I would send them cards and messages and sometimes little gifts to let them know I was thinking of them. I would drop everything if they needed me.

I would make sure they knew they were loved because nothing was more painful than having to wonder. I would love them so fully on earth, they would still feel my love from heaven. Five years ago when I sat on the couch with that box of stationery and a pack of fine-tipped markers, I didn’t know if I would be here today. God allowed me more time, and I prayed for more.

It was all about the time.

I didn’t know how much time I had left, but I would spend it well on those I loved the most. If I never finished those letters, I prayed my loved ones would know how much I loved them anyway. Not because I wrote it down.

But because I loved them, treasured them, and gave them the most precious of gifts.

My time.

While I still could.

So let me ask you …

Do you have the time?

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