Are you old enough to remember an old television ‘soap opera’ that began in 1965 … “Days of Our Lives”? I understand it is still running today, obviously different actors but I wouldn’t doubt the story line is the same! The opening segment showed an hourglass, and the narrators mellow voice came in saying, “Like sand through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” If our mother missed a few days of it, no worries, the situations were dragged out for so long, you could keep up even after a month sabbatical! I remember that my mother would do her ironing in a room where the tv was visible from where she stood. For those of you who do not know what ‘ironing’ is, Google it. You’ll find that Meriam Webster defines it as: “the action or process of smoothing or pressing with or as if with a heated iron.” But I digress.
Like sand through the hourglass… Jack Nicholson playing in The Bucket List describes life as ‘like smoke through a keyhole” and the psalmist wrote in Psalm 90:6, “In the morning they are like grass which grows up: 6 In the morning it flourishes and grows up; In the evening it is cut down and withers.” He goes on to write, “We finish our years like a sigh. 10 The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”
Moses wrote Psalm 90 speaking toward man’s frailty. Solomon, a king who wrote many psalms, and wrote Lamentations echoed the despair of Moses often saying that life is vanity and striving after success in life is all vanity for another man will come and receive all of the bounty from your work. WOW, a total downward ride at the beginning of this paper. I wouldn’t blame you if you quit reading right now. But I suggest you keep reading for there is light at the end of the tunnel and it is not a train! Maybe.
What spurs the thoughts of sand through the hourglass, smoke through a keyhole and grass that grows up and then is cut and thrown to the fire? This past weekend and, in fact, the entire last few months have brought into very sharp focus the brevity of life and my own mortality. That, however, is not necessarily a bad thing.
It is interesting that before everything that has taken place in the first quarter of 2021, for Christmas 2020 my daughter Suzanne got me a “Bucket List” book you fill out the list and then describe how it was fulfilled. Now, with the stark realities of life bearing down on me a bit, that list is all the more important. A top priority on it is for my oldest grandson Aaron and I to get to Colorado to see the Air Force Academy and simply just be together. That is a priority more so now than when we first talked of it last fall.
Notice what Moses wrote, “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.” Now, Moses has been wandering in the desert for 40 years because of a stubborn bunch of people, a million or so, I believe and all they did was complain. I can understand why Moses would be a bit sullen! Still, God’s word is inspired writing. Moses wrote what God wanted him to write. As far as the 70 or 80 years, Moses lived to 120 and he started the wandering when he was 80! No wonder he was sighing when he came to the end of his time and after all the wandering in the desert, he did not get to enter the Promised Land. He died before they went in! But what about us? What is our attitude? More importantly, what is my attitude?
I haven’t hit the 70 mark just yet. Six more years plus a few months. With the lung disease with which I have been diagnosed, I can still make 70, good Lord willing, but it might not be a race where I’m coming in full speed, pedal to the metal at the finish line. It may be more a tortoise kind of finish, but we shall see. Still, I don’t see me ‘ending my days with a sigh…’ I don’t see that the best of my days are trouble and sorrow. Quite the opposite!
I am, among men, most blessed. I have a loving wife of 40 plus years, five wonderful kids and their spouses plus 12 amazing grandchildren all who love me far in excess of what I deserve. I have a nice home that keeps me warm in the winter, dry during the rain and pleasantly cool in the heat of summer. I am retired from a career which I deeply loved, and I believe was successful at it. I can get up and go when and where I want, most of the time, my surgeries past and, hopefully even future, have not prevented that. I have time to fish and ride my Harley and I have a new amateur radio transceiver for my hobby time. I can walk out my back door and see my horses or walk to the pond to fish. There is food in the pantry, fridge, and freezer – plenty to go around and some for those in need. I could count blessings on, and on, but you will think me bragging so I’ll stop there.
The admonition that Moses gives which I try to hang on to is: “Teach us to number our days so that we may gain wisdom.” Two events recently and a phone call I just completed even as I write this remind me of my own mortality and the importance of this admonition to number our days. First was my eldest brother’s death in late November. This past weekend my remaining two brothers and I headed for West Virginia to the mountainside where we roamed as kids. There we planted a rose bush for our brother in a small cemetery on the side of the mountain and placed his and his wife’s ashes there, completing a committal service for him. Now there are but three of us. The ‘fab four’ we jokingly labeled a silly photo we took several years ago at a family get-together are now not four but three. That is a stark reminder that life is not a forever event, at least not the physical life in these mortal bodies. Every soul ever born lives forever. The question remains for each, where does it spend that eternity? For the Christ-follower, the end is sure. A new body and our souls will continue for eternity in the presence of our God whether in a celestial realm or walking the new earth that God will make (Revelation chapter 21). Those who reject Christ will spend an eternity separated from their physical body but in physical torment for all of eternity. It is wise to know our end and to, as the old knight in the ‘Holy Grail’ movie with Harrison Ford admonished him, “choose wisely.”
The second event of these past several weeks, as I mentioned a bit ago, is the diagnosis of a lung disease. The initial prognosis is not a good one but, that is, as I say, “a God thing.” If you want to follow along on the voyage of the adventures with a terminal illness – life is a terminal illness! – but check out VOYAGE at www.rossriggs.com On the Welcome menu you will find the links to the current and past postings. Getting a diagnosis out of the blue when you really don’t think anything is going on other than aging and being out-of-shape is a real kick in the pants! It will help you re-focus what is going on in your life!
The phone call I just completed from a dear friend who is not able to travel. He received word just a few days ago of his mother’s death, fairly suddenly from a pneumonia complication. Unable to get to her bedside before her death or even attend her funeral, he grieves in solitude. Reminded of his last visit with her over a year ago, he longs for a time to see her again. Thankfully, both have Christ and know their hope is certain.
So, now there are three and, if the doctors are right, in a decade, maybe less than a decade, there will be two. Thank God for the hope of heaven. Without such a hope there is no hope. Keep up that ever stretching, reach for all that God has for you. Try not to get caught up in the negative and worry about whether you will end your years with a ‘sigh’. I probably will end my with “Whew!”