Originally written in TACKED THOUGHTS for The Freeman
by Nancy Unchuan Toledo
Recently, I found a strand of stubborn white hair sticking out in the middle of my head. Gasp! How did that come to pass? I began this column when I was just out of college and about to face my second year of teaching. That was twelve years ago. A decade and then some.
Last week, my extended family took a family photo. The oldest was my grandmother, 97. The youngest a niece and a nephew at a little over a year. There were 6 aunts and uncles, 7 (out of 10 grandchildren) and spouses, and 10 (of 20) great grandchildren. I used to be the youngest member of the family. But now, my oldest nephew is a teenager.
Every time I meet my niece and nephew I am struck by how barely a week away can mean so much in the development of a 3 and 5 year old. They grow up by the second, it seems. And all I can do is marvel.
When I was a child, it seemed to take forever to finish everything. But now that I’m an adult, life seems hell-bent on speeding by. I hate to admit it but all those times when well-meaning older relatives and family friends would comment about how fast time flies (and I would roll my eyes at what seemed to me at that time was a patronizing tone), they were right after all. I look at the young faces of family and students and think to myself: if they only knew how fleeting time actually is.
If time seems to slow when one is a child, it also seems to slow when one is in pain. Suffering in all its forms does that to us, I guess. Makes as feel as though it’ll last forever until, well, it doesn’t. And it is only when we look back that we realize that it too had its end. That when measured against eternity, it barely registered at all.
But when all is well, life moves on at its usual dizzying pace. The next thing I know, my nieces and nephews will have their own weddings, my students will have their own children and the lone white hair might become the lone black one. But I intend to make every moment count from now on, make choices based on what will matter when I am old and not just on the here and now which means—spending more time with family and friends, not overstressing over uncontrollable circumstances at work, and being aware of God at every moment. I don’t usually have these thoughts till my birthday rolls along in March—but being reflective and introspective also come with being older, I guess. Or maybe it just comes when one is the middle of one’s 33rd year.
There’s a 91-year-old priest in the school where I work. There is also a seminarian in his early twenties. When the seminarian said goodbye to the priest one day, the seminarian said, “I’ll see you tomorrow, father.” The priest replied, “if God wills.”
I wish I become that chill when I turn 90.
If God wills. If God wills.