I couldn’t wait for my grandmother to come over to our house.
She was the sweetest and strongest lady I ever knew, and I would light up the minute she walked in the door. As an only child, I guess I’ve always been “blessed” with, um, a big personality–and I couldn’t wait for her to come back to my room for me to put on a show. There were magic shows. There were high drama super hero church services, campmeeting on steroids, where Hawkman would sing in a trio with Flash and Robin. I would preach, and the Green Lantern would get saved. Or Aquaman would get the Holy Ghost. I lived for the times she would come over and I could share with her all of the things I held most dear.
After I’d been going on for awhile, she would inevitably speak the words I both loved and dreaded to hear: “Okay Jonathan–I can stay for ten more minutes.“ It was always a bittersweet moment. It marked the finite nature of the time we had (“only ten more minutes”) and yet felt like I had been given this unexpected bonus (“Hey! I’ve got ten more minutes!”) Whenever she said it though, I didn’t waste any time in angst about only having ten minutes more. I lived those last ten minutes out loud for all they were worth. All the energy, silliness and showmanship I could muster crammed into this tiny window of time, the happy weight that this time was precious time, this was marked time–this was holy time. I couldn’t afford to waste it. “Ten more minutes” was time to be more alive than usual, because I was suddenly aware of what a precious commodity our time together really was. What’s troubling is how often our time is not marked at all–there is nothing sacred about any of hours. Because our time (especially with those we love) really is a finite, fragile thing, whether we acknowledge it or not.
I think the worst thing that can happen to any of us is to live from one assignment to the next or one place to the next, always watching the clock waiting for the hour to be over. I of course still have meetings/calls/moments in my life that cannot end quickly enough, I have hours I want to only escape. But as we age, grow and develop, we also come to feel the magnitude of moments we hope will never end. Which is why it’s a really good idea to learn how to recognize them and how to live in them–and most of all, not to end them until you absolutely have to.
It is a rare and precious gift when its time to cut the lights off–but you’re given ten more minutes:
I know it’s late and we should all go home–but I can talk for few more minutes.
I guess we’ve got time for one more song…
I’ve got an early morning tomorrow, but…
I don’t know who or where or what gives you that kind of childish delight. I’m only asking that when you are there and in that moment, and you realize there is e-mail to check and phone calls to return and errands that need to be run–make time for ten more minutes.
There is plenty of time that we have mismanaged, there are many minutes we will one day consider misspent. Those last ten minutes are not likely to be among them.