Nothing but time

There’s an old cemetery at Carolina Beach that’s not far from the Cape Fear river. It’s for settlers….mostly the Newton family…who moved to the area in the early 1800s. Decided to wander over with my camera during the “golden hour,” late afternoon when the lighting is the best.

As I stood under the live oaks and Spanish moss, looking at the headstones, a few thoughts came to mind.

One was the brevity, the uncertainty of our time here. Many of the markers were for children, swept away by fate before they’d had had a chance to grow, to find love, to start a family. Others were young adults….one woman was born in 1834 and died just 22 years later, in 1856. Beloved wife, it said. Some disease? …Typhoid, cholera, yellow fever? An accident? Childbirth? Twenty two…that just doesn’t seem fair.

I reflected also on our futile efforts to create something lasting. Late the previous afternoon, the beach empty, I passed a beautiful sand castle someone had built. The tide was coming in and the towers and ramparts were beginning to crumble. In the cemetery, words chiseled into granite only a century and a half ago were almost illegible. The words were an old fashioned font, faint, darkened and covered with mold and moss.

Today is my birthday…I can hear a faint click as the celestial odometer turns over another mile. I gaze at the headstones with the sad realization that one day I’ll have my own stone, mourners, a pastor, some words said. Within a generation or two, I’ll be forgotten and after a century or two, the determined effort to immortalize me with words chiseled into granite will fail. I’m aware of the passing days, the bucket list with so many things yet to check off, the uncertainty of it all, how every sunrise is a gift, every hour precious and irretrievable, every day above ground a good one.

A passage from the book of James came to mind:

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (Jas 4:14)

I’ve got to-do lists from the 1990s. I’ve got one-year plans, five-year plans, ten-year plans. I’ve got my bucket list. I’m frozen with indecision, aware of the need to put it in gear and get going…but it’s like one of those dreams where you run and run as some danger approaches, yet you don’t move.

Think I’ll walk tonight on the beach under the full moon and talk to one who has some answers.

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