I recently finished a podcast called S-Town that featured the true & tragic story John B. McLemore, an astoundingly brilliant horologist – that is, someone who has studied time. The narrator and John begin to discuss sundials together and I learned that most sundials feature a latin inscription about time. Some of them stole my breath,
- Hora fugit, ne tardes. The hour flees, don’t be late.
- Festina lente. Make haste, but slowly.
- Lente hora, celeriter anni. An hour passes slowly, but the years go by quickly.
- Sic vita fluit, dum stare videtur. Life flows away as it seems to stay the same.
- Ultima latet ut observentur omnes. Our last hour is hidden from us, so that we watch them all.
I could go on and on, there are so many that so succinctly get to the point (to read more, click here). These sundials and John B. got me thinking a great deal about how I’ve treated time and how differently I’ve begun to approach it over the passed year.
Last summer I had a beautiful baby girl and subsequently, nearly every day someone says to me, “Enjoy it, it goes so fast.” Time. Time goes oh, so dearly fast.
After my daughter was born, my mom gave me some advice, I think the best advice she has ever given to me. She said, “Molly, you will never feel like you’ll have enough time. You could spend every second with her and it would still never feel like enough. So give yourself grace and just enjoy your time together without guilt.”
- Dona præsentis cape lætus horæ. Take the gifts of this hour.
Amazing advice, right? And while it applies so beautifully to life with little ones, it applies to life with old and middle aged ones too. I’ve rarely heard people say, “We had enough time together, I’m satisfied,” or, “I visited my parents too many times.” Typically, what I hear from grieving people are sentiments like these:
“We didn’t have enough time together.”
“I didn’t spend enough time with her. I should have made more of an effort.”
“What I wouldn’t give for another minute.”
- Serius est quam cogitas. It’s later than you think.
Summer always makes me think about time, it’s such a nostalgic time of year. I look back on family vacations, landmarks we visited, and I think of being a kid playing kickball in my neighbor’s yard and knocking over her prized tomatoes. Wow, how was that so long ago? And then there’s just this last summer where I was preparing my home and heart to hold a little sweet baby and now this summer, she’s nearly walking, makes the sweetest sounds, and will be a year old in just a few short weeks.
- Meam vide umbram, tuam videbis vitam. Look at my shadow and you will see your life.
So how do we enjoy this time we are given with the lowest possible amount of anxiety over how fleeting it is? Well, I think this is where my mom’s advice comes in. To paraphrase: if we accept that we will never, ever feel like we’ve had enough time then we can also accept that that is just how time feels for all of us. We aren’t doing something inherently wrong if we feel this way and we didn’t fail someone we love.
If we accept that no amount of time satisfies then we can begin to take off the guilt about how often we visited grandpa before he died, or come to peace with that last hug we wish we could have given mom, the last kiss for our spouse. Because we start to realize that if we could get it, it would still not be enough.
- Utere, non numera. Use the hours, don’t count them.
This is where peace dwells. The people who talk about being at peace after a death have come to terms with this truth about time. They know that they did what they could, they were there as often as possible and they loved as well as they knew how. See how perfectly this advice fits parenting and bereavement? I had no idea they would have such foundational similarities but I am so grateful that I get to approach my time with my daughter with this wisdom, this grace, this peace; time does not promise satisfaction, but it does offer the opportunity to be our best and if we seize that, we can find peace.
- Fugit hora – carpe diem. The hour flees – seize the day.
So, instead of feeling panic when you ponder the brevity of time and it’s unexpected way of running out, make an effort to spend time with people and enjoy them in a way where you feel peace and comfort knowing you’ve shown them love. We place such impossible demands on ourselves and our time and waste so much of both trying to get “enough”. Rest, relax. Let the time you have be enough.
- Dum tempus habemus operemur bonum. While we have time, let us do good.