To number our days

More candles, more light by which to see. Blue candles on birthday cake by Joey Gannon, Pittsburgh, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

More candles, more light by which to see.
Blue candles on birthday cake by Joey Gannon, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

Jeff’s days are numbered.  But so are mine, and yours, and everybody’s.

One of the benefits of slamming face-first into the reality of our own mortality is implied in the verse above.  I’ve found that many of the things that once bothered me seem laughably minor now.  Others, while still serious, have been put into perspective.

This is a lesson we began to experience in depth when Matt was born and struggled to survive his first week of life.  The passing years made it ever clearer.  Still, it wasn’t until Jeff’s diagnosis that we realized our insight never was as clear as we thought it was.

It’s an oft-repeated cliché: it takes a crisis to open our eyes to what really matters.  As with so many other platitudes (“you’ll understand when you’re older” or “just wait until you have children of your own” or “when you have your health, you have everything”) we eventually find out that these bromides are watered down from profound experiences.

The good news is that we don’t have to endure crisis firsthand to learn from it.  Long before illness and death touched us personally, I believed (though not completely understanding) that there is wisdom in acknowledging the uncertainty and brevity of life.  History, literature, and theology all carry powerful teaching to guide us in honoring the gift of life wisely.

Even for those of us who believe this life is a way station, a passage into eternity, the idea of death is not normally appealing.  I’ve found, though, that the older I get, the more I can feel the promised “peace that passes understanding” about the inevitability of physical decline and death.  As the years pass and the candles on our cakes grow more numerous, I hope the added light they give is a symbol of the spiritual illumination that comes from the wisdom of numbering our days.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. bendichoso

    Thank you, Ms. Julia🙏 … This post hits home. I continue to remind myself that tomorrow is only a promise and not guaranteed. Now that I am retired, I try my best to make each day count … God Bless, Ben Jr.

    • Thank you Ben. Every day, the national news as well as the news from friends and family remind us that no one is promised tomorrow. All the more reason to make today count, and we do this sometimes in big ways, but mostly in small deeds of faithfulness each day.

  2. Lydia E Gama

    Dear Julia,
    Beautiful message! My husband is traveling to Bogotá, Colombia in a couple of weeks to celebrate the 100th birthday of his sister, Elena. She has been such an inspiration for many. Her life has touched many people. She has lived a life of service to others. We’ve enjoyed her hospitality and her wonderful sense of humor. We don’t know how long our lives are going to be and as you say, we can make our days count. A smile, a word of encouragement, a phone call, a prayer, a joke shared, a song, so many ways we can encourage others. I’ve been praying for your full recovery. Thanks for your writings. They are a blessing.

    • Thank you, Lydia, for sharing here too! I am unfortunately more than a month late getting to these comments. By now your husband’s trip to see his sister is probably complete. WOW, what a milestone! 100 years well lived. I’m so happy he could go to be with her. I am grateful for every bit of news I get about someone quietly shining a light into this dark world. I apologize for taking so long to get to this lovely comment. Thank you again!

  3. Good morning, Julia! For quite a while, I was excited about the wisdom that seemed to be coming with each year. Lately I feel as though I’ve stalled out, though. I think I need more sleep than I’m getting; maybe then I will process things better.
    I hope that you and Matt are doing well!

    • Susan, I can identify. My ability to sleep really well seems to come and go no matter what I do to try to help it, and I do notice that my feeling of being “stalled out” seems directly related to how much sleep I’m getting. But I’ve also taught myself to realize that getting anxious about the sleep only perpetuates the insomnia, so I tell myself it’s “a gift of time” and don’t lie in bed trying to fight it anymore. I think the wisdom comes whether we know it at the time, or not. So hopefully you will see the beneficial effects again soon. 🙂

      • Thank you. I like your idea of considering it “a gift of time.”

        • It definitely helps. PLUS I’ve found there is a great deal of wisdom in the oft-given advice to insomniacs: DON’T lie in bed tossing and turning. Get up and do something. It trains your body to sleep while you’re in bed, not ruminate…

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