Yesterday was my birthday, again. I don’t feel any older. From sweet sixteen, to a bride; overnight, it seems. I became a wife, a mom, and a grandma. I don’t remember anything special about most of the birthdays come and gone. Except one. November 22, 1963.
It was a cold, rainy, dark day, as it often is in East Lansing, MI, in November. I’d walked across the campus under my umbrella to a doctor appointment, and planned to take the bus home later, home being the campus married housing. I sat in the crowded waiting room checking my watch. The doctor appeared at the door, where I expected to see the nurse calling my name. He leaned against the door frame. His voice was choked. We all stared at him while tears dropped onto his cheeks.
“My wife just called me on the telephone. President Kennedy ... has just been shot. I’ll be closing to go home.” It took a few minutes for those words to sink in. Shot? The President? Our President? No one said a word. Behind us, the doctor hung “Closed” on the office door. We all believed the world would end that very day.
I think of this momentous – now historical – event every birthday. Many birthdays and events have come and gone since then, happy, sad, good, and bad. And all of them, just a tiny particle of Time. That doctor, I’m sure has died.
We tend to think of Time in terms of our lifetime. But, once, the Sahara Desert was a green lush Eden. Once what is now a coastline was part of a main land. Once, what is now a beautiful resort, was swamp where dinosaurs roamed. The course of rivers created canyons out of mountains, and floods created plains; natural disasters changed geography, and continue to do so, a few feet at a time. In our lifetimes we see by-passes built around towns and watch ghost towns disappear sometimes within a century, as new suburbs continually change boundaries. Leaders, evil and good, change control and back again. In my lifetime a President was assassinated and there are people alive who voted for him, and others who weren’t yet born.
The universe is constantly changing, recycling, repurposing, reinventing. We are just a tiny breath, a teardrop. No matter how old, how grown up, no matter how many birthdays we have, we are inconsequential to Time and the changes it brings about. The older we get, the more apparent that becomes. We “know” history, 200, maybe 300 years’ worth, but, that too, is only a speck, just a breath of Time. Most natural cycles aren’t completed in a human lifetime. We never see a completed cycle, the big picture. We experience only that part that happens while we are here.
We have to be good stewards of our environment, we must take care of what we’ve been gifted. But we mustn’t believe for one moment that we oversee Time and Change. We just aren’t that important. No matter how old we grow, how many birthdays we celebrate, how wise we feel, we will never be God of the Universe. We need to stop taking ourselves that seriously! Stop presuming so much credit. We can not hold back Time. Give the worry over time and change to God, and just be grateful for another birthday. One day we will all finally be old enough.