— Pink Floyd, “Time”
Funny how I keep coming back to the music of Pink Floyd—as I did here and here—as starting points for recent blogs. But for me the celebrated British prog rock band again makes a powerful point.
This time, it involves death. And life.
Earlier this year, a good friend of mine learned he has a brain tumor. Even with treatment, his life expectancy is but a few short months. His siblings and friends have done a fantastic job staying connected and seeing to his needs. Still, likely fewer days remain in his journey than lay behind.
We’ve been friends for decades. While our adult years involved infrequent visits, each came as if no time had passed. We’d tell the same jokes, needle each other in the same ways, laugh at the same misadventures of our youth.
Those jokes and recollections have become especially poignant in our recent visits.
Pink Floyd’s “Time” emerged from lyricist Roger Waters’ mind in the early 1970s, becoming part of the band’s epic album, The Dark Side of the Moon. (Do yourself a favor and listen to this album in its entirety.) Approaching his 30s, Waters realized he was awaiting a magical moment when his life would begin, but that moment was long past:
And then one day you find, ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run; you missed the starting gun.
At least the cantankerous Waters recognized his error at a relatively young age. Most of us don’t see it until the gray hairs outnumber those of other hues—or until someone close reaches the end unexpectedly.
My friend has faced his final struggle with resilience, acceptance and peace—due largely to his Christian faith, which we share. Even so, I admire his even keel and wonder if I would do as well in his place.
But the bigger notion now fully roosted in my heart and soul is a desire to stop wasting time.
Stop wasting it on work. I don’t mean stop working—although there are days!—but stop pouring all my energy, all my lifeforce, into the grinding cogs of occupation until none remains for God, for loved ones and for self.
Stop wasting it away from the places I dream—the avocations, the geographies, the experiences that mark a life fully lived. These need not be monumental excursions; not everyone wants to climb Kilimanjaro or trod the Camino de Santiago (though I’m considering both!). They can be simple moments, deliberate interludes of calm in the day’s storm.
Stop wasting it on people and ideas that exist merely to disrupt. Stand against the wrong, invest in what’s right, but don’t let either leach the joy and energy that give life meaning.
Stop wasting it away from the moment. This is a tough one, especially in American culture, where everything is about the next accomplishment, the next rung on the ladder to wherever or whatever. I confess I spent a lot of my professional life here, albeit without realizing it. That life lesson proved valuable but tremendously costly.
One thing my friend is making sure he doesn’t miss in his final months is the opportunity to say all that needs to be said. When friends and family depart, he says, “I love you.” When asked how he faces this battle, he cites his unwavering faith. When his time has come, when his song is over, he’s wants nothing left to say.
I can’t think of a more powerful lesson in communication. Or life.