“There is no unstoppable force but time, no impenetrable object except that which separates us from the past.”
Please play the music as you read this post.
I was nine years old and on my way from school to my position as crossing guard. I was moving quickly, intent on getting to my post before anyone else did. But more than that, I moved quickly because life was coursing through me. It was a day warmer than we had experienced for a while—the first real day of spring—and all of the world felt alive to me. The breeze, still cool but no longer biting, excited skin that was still sensitive, not yet numbed to the outside world by work and age.
It was then that I first experienced it, the awareness of the miracle of being alive. Oh, surely I’d experienced the miracle before, experienced it in the way any frolicking young animal experiences it in the very movement of its body. But this was the first time I connected it to thought. I was alive and aware of the mystery of such a thing. And being aware, I felt more alive than I ever had before. I half-skipped, half ran down the road, and as I did so I sang, such was the intensity of feeling. The song was Daydream Believer by The Monkees, a song anyone of my generation will be familiar with, a wonderfully sweet, bouncy happy song.
Special moments like that stick out in the memory. I’ll never forget that feeling of being young and having more energy than I had tasks to waste it upon, energy that seemed inexhaustible.
Fast forward thirty-five years. I was coming home from work and heard the news that Davy Jones had died. Once again, anyone of my generation will know that he sang Daydream Believer. Hearing the news made me think back to the child who ran down the street on an early spring day singing a song that expressed all the joy in his heart. In that moment I realized that once again another of those impenetrable barriers that time likes to put between us and what we once knew and were had been erected. Never again would I hear this song and think of youth and new beginnings. Or rather I would, and then I would be reminded that it resides in that unreachable land that is called the past.
You see, even though The Monkees as a band had already come and gone on the music scene by the time I was nine, the individuals were still quite young in the grand scheme of things. They existed in that world of endless possibilities and endless seasons, a world that only a child can see. There, things that get bad only get bad for a while before the natural order is resumed and everything once good is good once more. There are endless years in front of you for your favorite team to finally make the playoffs, for you to write that book and make that album and fight that war. There was time yet, time for The Beatles to get back together and make music again. Time for Greg Cook to recover from his injuries and become the quarterback he was destined to become. And the more the time passes the more remarkable will be the comeback when it finally occurs. All good things happen in the future.
But then those events start to happen that make you realize that some things will never come to pass. John Lennon is shot and killed by a deranged fan and suddenly The Beatles will never be The Beatles again, except in memory. My uncle dies and I know I’ll never see him as long as I live. My grandmother’s home, the very heart and soul of a large and loving family, is sold to strangers who remodel it and strip it of its sacredness.
They come ever more quickly it seems, the reminders large and small. The closing of a favorite restaurant. The final episode of your favorite show, the retirement of a favorite coworker, the house being built on the open lot that used to be your ball field.
The older we get the more time takes from us. And as time passes and things become more dear, the harder it will be to say goodbye when the time comes. True, new things and people come into our lives to replace the old, but I’ve always been loyal and hate to think people are so easy to replace. In my heart I’ve never been able to let go. The people and things that have been dear to me will always remain so, even though I can never reach them except in thought and memory.
But here’s the thing. I still feel that joy I felt as a nine year old singing a song on the first day of spring. And if that first moment of self-awareness made the feeling of being alive even more powerful, then the ensuing years of thought and reflection have made it more intense still. And like a child who loves his stuffed animal all the more despite the missing eye and the hole or two and the mange, perhaps I more fully appreciate that miracle of life that I first became aware of all those years ago. Only, occasionally, I need to be reminded that it can only be enjoyed when is fully in the moment. Because that’s the thing: we are given so many blessings we can never fully give back. We can only appreciate the moment as best we can. And when it is gone, do not grieve for it but embrace the time you have now, before it leaves to join all that has come before.
Those memories we hold dear, let us not forget them but keep them as reminders of all the beauty and wonder that life brings our way.