On April 8, 2010 prior to heading to bed I went to check e-mail. It was around 11:00 p.m., and I saw a message from my uncle that I had trouble processing: my cousin, Anthony, whom I affectionately called Ants, had died in a motorcycle accident that day, all of 45 years of age. That’s not possible, is it? How could Ants be gone, just like that, forever? I cried. And beat myself up because I’d meant to call him for several months, but hadn’t. Now, I would never ever be able to talk to him again, on this earth, although I know by our very well established faith I shall talk to Anthony again.

Every year on the anniversary of Anthony’s death I text or call my cousin Greg, his brother, to remember Anthony and affirm the value he had in our lives. It’s still hard to believe he’s gone. When I said to Greg how fast the nine years has gone since Anthony left us, he replied, “If this is all there is, why bother?” Exactly! The swift passage of time is of course a cliche, but primarily among those of us who’ve lived four decades or more. For those younger, the words “swift passage” are an abstraction with little or no meaning. For me, it wasn’t until I got north of 40 that this time thing started to get out of hand. I came up with an analogy to convey the creeping, unsettling experience of time’s acceleration.

There is a portion of Interstate 5 north of Los Angeles known as the Grapevine, which brings you up one side of the mountain, and then down, down, down straight and fast on the other. There are even carve outs on the side of the road for trucks that lose their breaks. When you’re young you want to get older, to sit at the “adults table,” to get in on the important stuff. In fact, the faster the better, so you metaphorically push on the gas and thrill at the speed as you head down the age Grapevine. Weee!!!!! This is fun, I’m 21! I’m an adult! Then as you get into your late 20’s, you’re building your life, chasing your dreams, maybe start having kids. In your 30’s you’re crazy busy, schlepping kids around, school, sports, the whole nine yards. Then comes the 40’s, the kids are growing up, fast, graduations start happening, college maybe. Whoa, hold on here! So you start tapping on the breaks, this is going a little too fast now, then you blow by 50 and start pushing really hard on the breaks only to discover . . . . you have no breaks! Fast and faster you go until . . . . .

Lest you think I only started tripping out (I am a child of the 60’s and 70’s, after all) about time as decrepitude set in, not so. I remember one day, distinctly, when I was 15 (1975) eating lunch outside at school, and a thought struck me about 2001: A Space Odyssey, a movie that by then had been around seven years. I specifically thought about this very strange concept of the year 2000, a year I was sure could never happen. That bizarre sounding year was like the movie, science fiction, and it always would be, my teenage self was sure. To a 15 year-old that 25 years in the future was forever! Now, boom! It’s 19 years in the rear view mirror!

As my children will tell you, the swift passage of time is a constant theme of my conversations with them. One of the priceless moments in this passage was with my youngest, now 17, and a response of his to my constant tripping about time. I said finally, Ah, you’ll never get it at your age, and he said, quite logically, “Then why do you keep telling me?” Because that’s what old people do! They simply can’t believe time has happened to them, so they incredulously tell young people, you’ll never believe it, but this is going to happen to you too!

One last brief time story. I was 22 and starting my first job fresh out of college. As I was being introduced to my new co-workers, one older, curmudgeonly looking man stared at me with what looked like malice. He asked, accusingly, how old I was. When I said 22, he scrunched up his face and in a gravelly voice said, “That’s disgusting!” Dude, relax! I bet he was probably around the age I am now, but he looked really old to my 22 year-old self. Needless to say, I can sympathize now.

I look at life, and all things in life, including the rushing river of time, apologetically. In other words, how does everything, literally every . . . single . . . thing confirm that Christianity is The Truth. That Christianity has the explanatory force of an atom bomb to explain reality and its true nature. The passage of time, as my cousin Greg knows (we were born a couple weeks apart) points to something beyond time, and the faster it appears to go, the more powerful the message: THIS IS NOT ALL THERE IS!!! I also love, and preach this to my kids, that time is the great relativizer. Not only will the greatest and most beautiful and talented athletes and artists not always be so great and beautiful and talented, but they will be dead! Then what of their greatness and beauty and talent? Uh? What of it? Meaningless, I tell you, a chasing after the wind! But we who bear the name of Christ follow one who has conquered death, and made time, as difficult as it can be to accept, our friend. And we will soon be with him, and with our loved ones in him who have preceded us.


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