For Now, Just Live

Lent, Day One. Ash Wednesday.

The first time I realized that I was eventually going to die, I was probably about six years old.

The moment is still vivid for me. I was in the living room of our home, playing with action figures with cartoons on the TV. While standing at a small end table staging a fight between two of my toys, the thought simply emerged, causing me to pause and stare into space as I allowed it to sink in.

"Someday I'm going to die." I didn't say it out loud, but those five words just hung there in my consciousness for a minute or two as I reflected on what it meant. There'd be no more playing with action figures, no more cartoons, no more me.

Someone that young, with so much life ahead, can only fathom it so much. But for a little while, it hung over my head like a cloud.

I didn't really resolve anything. No moment of panic or peace followed. Instead, I began to think about what I'd do in the meantime, like finish the battle being waged in front of me and enjoy the show I was watching and maybe in a little while run down to my best friend's house while watching the sidewalk pass under my feet.

In other words, something inside my tiny self seemed to say, "For now, just live."

That realization has returned many times in the years since. It may come at certain birthdays, or life moments that call to mind how much older I actually am, or aches and pains that I didn't used to have, or when I realize how further away certain treasured seasons of my life have passed into my rearview mirror.

I can't really control any of it, of course. Age, the passing of time, death itself, are facts that cannot be denied or avoided. They just are.

But everything that can happen to us, and everything that we make happen to each other in the meantime are also facts. Every way we have an opportunity to love others and receive love, to recognize our shortcomings and switch paths, to make amends for times we've caused injury, to experience joy and sadness, all that makes up what we do and who we are before this earthly time is over, are just as true as its ending.

We set aside this day to remember both truths. We impose ashes and sobering words, but we also confess and commission, as if to say there's still time. There's still time for a change in direction and in how we use these delicate vessels we've been given.

There's still time.

For now, just live.

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