I found these Tom Hussey photographs arresting. They are images of Alzheimer’s patients taken 50 years apart.
Perhaps it is because time’s clock is ticking, because the days are long and the years fly by, because the oldest of my three kids just went off for a month of sleepaway camp and, even though it’s still a long way off, his being out of the house for a few weeks reminds me and my wife that one day he will actually BE out of the house, moving on and living a whole life elsewhere, hopefully visiting us from time to time. And, eventually, so will my other two kids, even our baby girl.
Inexorably, I will, if I’m lucky, continue to live life, experience joy and sorrow, and, I hope, continue to gain wisdom and perspective as I grow older.
All the while I will continue to look in the mirror each morning, and one day (no doubt sooner than I expect it) I will be surprised at the person I see in the reflection. When that day comes I will talk to younger people and they will make the same mistake that I surely have made countless times: not understanding that I old was once young, vibrant, reckless, inexperienced, and brash.
American culture scores low marks in terms of respect for our elders, and I suspect it is because, in the absence of a strong set of norms around how to treat one another, as individuals we routinely forget the arc of the lives that others have lived. Perhaps most of us lack the capacity to see a wizened, cracked face, or a body that moves more slowly than it once did, and see the full life that person has lived.
Yet if we’re lucky, time will pass for all of us and we will grow old. Of course. I sometimes wonder, though, if our inability to truly understand this simple fact is one of life’s biggest practical jokes. I know that if we all felt how precious and fleeting our lives are we’d often act differently.
Seeing such vivid, beautiful images of time’s passage doesn’t make me fearful, but it does help me remember to live now, to experience the richness of life and love and family now, to be courageous in what I do now, because time really is flying, and my chance to make a difference is people’s lives is today, not tomorrow.