I have written about impermanence for two days now. It occurred to me this morning that my writing has been about the impermanence of others.

I, too, am impermanent.

Several years ago I read a book, A Year to Live, an interesting book about how you might approach your life if you had only one year to live. I remember starting the book on December 16 of that year, because for several weeks as I read it, I consciously said to myself, “This is my last December 16” or whatever the date for that day was.

Imposing a time limit on my life and recognizing the finality of each day altered the way I approached each day. This was not a conscious thought all day long, but the awareness floated through my thoughts several times during the day.

This approach is different than having a bucket list. I loved that movie and I think having a list is a good idea, but a bucket list usually includes a few special activities that we hope or plan to do before we die. Awareness of having a year to live, for me, put more emphasis on my awareness of each day and each encounter. This approach prompts me to think about HOW I want to do this day, not WHAT I want to do this day.

tempus fugitI encountered the Latin phrase, “Tempus fugit” in my high school history class. At the time I wondered why this was an important quote. Of course “time flies,” I thought.  As I got older and as I experienced the death of more and more of my friends, the quote became more meaningful.

The quote comes from Virgil.  Originally he wrote, “fugit inreparabile tempus,” (it escapes, irretrievable time). Yes, indeed.

For me, this thought is more of a motivational reality than a morbid conclusion. At some point, today or in 25 years, my physical life will end. It happened for one of my aunts yesterday evening.  All the things I have done on my bucket list will be of no value to me. The only things of value will be the influence I have had (intentionally or not) on those who knew me.

Even more sobering is that someday they will all die. At some point no one living will ever have known me.  Then my only influence will the indirect influence that they pass along to others.

My faith about this life is that I can make ripples that go on and on, long after they are no longer attached to me. That will be my gift after I am gone. My only real choice is my intention and my effort: to make a gift that enhances the lives of others and makes the world more hospitable, or a gift that diminishes others and makes the world more hostile.