What a day…
I’d never design a day like today – actually plan it out ahead of time.
Things started early. We had to take our dog Otto to the vet for dental work, and he needed to be there at 8 a.m. That’s early for us retired (or at least semi-retired) guys. Otto is 11 years old and has a number of medical problems. Addison’s Disease, which requires that we give him prednisone twice a day. A heart murmur. Liver blood tests that are off the charts. And dogs only have dental work under general anesthesia, so there was no guarantee that he would survive the procedure.
After dropping our little old man off we faced several hours of waiting to hear how things went. Jim G headed to church to practice the organ. I got on my bike and started riding, going 38 miles in all. I stopped to answer two phone calls from the vet. In the first one, he said that he’d already removed all Otto’s teeth but one. Should he leave that one? I said no, and he agreed. The second call, a half hour later, brought news that Otto was waking up and the work was done.
I got back on my bike and finished riding home. Then it was time for lunch, a shower, and a nap. I even got in a little work before it was time to pick Otto up. That involved sitting in traffic for a while, and a stop at a grocery store to get some mushy food to feed him. When we got home it was time to figure out how to get Otto – whose mouth was very sore – to take his pain medication. It took me 30 minutes to come up with the answer – pork! I did a little more work, made dinner, and tried to work some more but my brain crashed into my computer screen. At least that’s what it felt like.
What a day! Why do we have days like this? Are they really necessary? Do we choose this stuff?
It so happens that I’ve been reading some journals of Thomas Merton, a well-known Catholic mystic and author. The journal entries I’ve been reading are from the last year of his life. Early in the year he spends a lot of time fretting about how noisy his home in Kentucky has gotten, how many people come by, and how hard it is for him to live a life of solitude as a hermit. He wonders over and over if he should ask permission to move and considers various options. Northern California. Alaska. Chile. Nepal. Then he gets permission to travel to Alaska and Asia. In India he realizes that his home in Kentucky isn’t so bad after all. But in the end none of that matters. Merton died on his Asian trip. He was accidentally electrocuted by a faulty fan in a small cottage near Bangkok, Thailand.
What would Merton have written about in his journal if he’d known that his time on Earth was almost up? Does a question like that even matter? How many of us know our time is running out before it all slips away? I’m not sure I’d want to know.
And yet, how do we choose to spend our days, our hours, our precious time? I didn’t plan to spend a day worrying about doggie dental care. But I’m glad I did. Otto is doing well and should be much healthier than he was with a mouth full of infection. So really, how do we decide to spend our days?
Jesus gave us some advice:
“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Abba feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?”
(Matthew 6.26-27, NRSV, alt)
What does that have to do with bicycles and dogs and rotten teeth? Nothing and everything. The best we can do is live our lives, one moment at a time, to the best of our abilities. Nothing more. Nothing less.