Opinion Column

Kernels of Wisdom: Where has the time gone?

By Rev. Eric Strachan

Getty images

Getty images


Time goes you say? Ah no! Alas, time stays, we go.


It’s hard to believe, I’ve been writing Kernels of Wisdom now for almost 29 years! Back there in 1991, two years after I began, I wrote a column telling about my recent 47th birthday party. Let me quote, “I turned 47 a few days ago. When the cake for the birthday bash had only one candle I asked why. The celebrants responded in unison, ‘Forty-seven candles would melt the icing on the cake!’ And then some joker in the pack added, ‘Anyway dad if you blew out that number of candles the smoke would probably set off the fire alarm’.”

That wasn’t the end of the humour. I received a birthday card which read on the outside, “Don’t feel you’re getting old if you can’t blow out the candles,” and then when I opened it up it read, “Just beat them out with your cane!” Funny, eh! But here I am writing this column 29 years later and I’m no longer 47, but turn these numbers around and put the seven before the four and you got it – I’m 74! This time there was no big birthday bash, but I wonder what the party-goers would have said had there been a cake with 74 candles. I can well imagine some comedian would probably have remarked with a noticeably snigger, “When you blow out the candles there old timer, please don’t breathe in, you may die of smoke inhalation! Ha Ha Ha!”

Well for sure it’s hard to believe that I’ve been on this planet now for close to 75 years. I can recall exactly where I was when Commander Neil Armstrong and the Apollo II space crew stepped onto the lunar surface. It was July 20, 1969. That was 49 years ago. I remember the day and hour and my precise location when the news bulletin interrupted normal programming with the breaking news that American President, John F. Kennedy had been assassinated by a sniper’s bullet. It was Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, at 12:30 p.m. That was almost 55 years ago! As a kid about to hit double digits I vividly recall the pomp and pageantry of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. With our pre-pubescent British voices we sung with gusto “God Save Our Gracious Queen”. Would you believe, that was June 2, 1953, just about 65 years ago!

There’s no doubt about it, the sands of time slip quietly through the hourglass and before you know it the biggest percentage of your life is now behind you. Some anonymous writer put our lifespan into proper perspective when he defined it as this, “Man’s life means, tender teens, teachable twenties, tireless thirties, fiery forties, forceful fifties, serious sixties, sacred seventies, aching eighties, shortening breath, death, The sod, God.” That’s the life cycle isn’t it, and that’s reality, not pessimism or fatalism, but honest down to earth realism, that our lifespan is swiftly moving towards it’s grand finale. That’s why the Biblical writer in a flash of insightful wisdom would say as he sent up a prayer to God, “Teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (The Bible, Psalm 90:12)

Let me ask you, when did you last take inventory of your life? When did you last sit down, and in a moment of serious introspection take a good look at your life? “What do you mean Eric, you say?” I mean, when did you last ask yourself questions like, “What is my relationship with God?” “If I was to die at this moment, am I ready?” “Are there any relationships in my life, inside or outside my family circle that are broken that need to be mended?” Such honest self-examination for sure can spiritually prepare you for the last lap of life. My 74th birthday was such an occasion, another opportunity to look deep within and ask myself some of these penetrating questions. This time there were no jokers around, no one like the comedian Jerry Seinfeld who once said about birthday cakes, “You know you’re getting old when you get that one candle on the cake, it’s like they’re saying ‘See if you can blow this out’.”

I pray for you and I who are maybe on the homestretch of our lives that these remaining days may be the very best days of our lives and that above all the decisions we would make about how to live these days, that you and I both would send up a prayer to God saying something like this, “Lord, however many days are left for me on the calendar of my life, help me to love you with all my heart, and beyond that, give me the grace to love every man and women who crosses my path each day of my life.” I can think of no better way to go down the homestretch and cross the finishing line of life! Can you?  

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