Days of no return

“How old are you, sir?” asked the Third Year student

It is a frequent question, I’m not sure why.

“I’ll be sixty-two later this year.”

“What, sir? I thought you were in your twenties.”

“Don’t be silly, you know I am much older.”

“I do. But, seriously, sir, I thought you were about fifty.”

“You are very kind.”

Sixty-two. I wondered if he could imagine being thirty-two, let alone sixty-two. I wonder if he ever thinks about days that have gone beyond recall. He probably thinks it is good those years have passed.

As for the idea of death, it would be an utterly remote prospect for him. Of course, he would recognize that it happens, but, probably reasonably, assume that it is something he will not have to consider until late in this century or early in the next.

Is there a point when time suddenly becomes something infinitely valuable, something not to be passed in the virtual world of electronic media? Is there a point where the idea of death makes us focus on life, or is it only in extremis that we value the moments in ordinary life? Is it only when it’s almost too late that we place value upon things which otherwise slip past?

It is almost as though that even with the advancing years we assume that the supply remains unlimited – if we lived our life in days, rather than years, would it make a difference?

Philip Larkin, understood, I think:

What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

Where can we live but days?

Isn’t it what the late great Kirsty McColl sang about?

Thank you for the days
Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me
I’m thinking of the days
I won’t forget a single day believe me

It is how Sebastian Faulks’ character Engleby copes,

Days. Days are what we live in.

Days came. Days went.

Three thousand years ago the writer of Psalm 90 in the Bible had come to the same conclusion,

Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Whatever happens, the days pass.

Of course, such observations would be pointless when you are in Third Year.

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2 Responses to Days of no return

  1. Paul Pope says:

    The lack of time has come to mind more often since my Father died suddenly recently. Maybe we just need something to jolt us out of complacency sometimes.

    • Ian says:

      A friend once said to me that our parents are our last line of defence against death. Once they have gone, it becomes a much larger shadow across our path.

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