Monday, March 11, 2013

A Box of Days

Suppose, if you would, that life was like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates. Imagine that each box contains seven different kinds of candy: we'll call them Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. Then supposing you could separate them so that all the Mondays were in one box, all the Tuesdays in another, and so on.

It is Saturday as I write this, and I realized that, were all the Saturday-candies of my life in one box, and I were to take one out each day, it would take me eleven years to eat them. Just Saturdays! And there would be an equal number of each of the other six varieties. I would be one hundred and sixty years old before I finished just the ones that are there now; with every passing day, there would be one more piece added to its respective box.

Science is continually striving to understand what is not—and may never be—understood: the origination, composition, and ultimate fate of the universe or the number of stars in it; quarks and black holes and the space-time continuum and anti-matter. This lack of comprehension extends far beyond the theoretical; we have yet to fully understand, let alone find, a cure or cancer or AIDS or aging, or a solution to a myriad of socio-economic, political, and religious issues which plague mankind.

I suppose therefore it is little wonder that I have yet to even begin to understand myself. But I am awed to the point of being overwhelmed by the awareness of that fact.

That this November I will turn eighty is as utterly incomprehensible to me—no, more so—as quantum physics. Not only is it incomprehensible, it is simply impossible. Why, just yesterday I was a twenty-two-year-old sailor aboard an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean, and sitting under the Christmas tree unwrapping Christmas presents with my mom and dad and my dog Stormy on Hutchins Ave. in Rockford, Illinois. Why, I can still clearly smell the pine needles! And surely it was less than yesterday that Norm and I were waterskiing behind my dad's speedboat on Lake Koshkonong. And Stu Iverson and I were just in Grant Park, lying on the grass and listening to a concert from the band shell...or was that me and Uncle Bob at the Hollywood Bowl? (It is 1969, isn't it? Or 1943? Or....)

I read a very touching story earlier this morning about a twenty-two-year-old young man with an entire, wonderful life ahead of him who fell off a scaffolding and died instantly. The tragedy of his death...that he was deprived of so very much wonder and joy...was oddly offset, for me, by the knowledge that the weight of the tragedy lay upon those who knew and loved him and lived on after. Grief and the sorrow of a death are for the living; the dead are beyond caring. For this young man, his existence stopped in the blink of an eye. He died in the bright early morning of his life. He was totally unaware even ten seconds before that the light switch of his life would be flicked off so suddenly. He missed so very much, yet he died not knowing not only what joys lay ahead of him, but was spared the inevitable pain and sadness that is also an integral part of life. He died with his youth, his energy, his enthusiasms, his very essence at its peak and was spared the knowledge or distress of dying of disease or the debilitating effects of age and/or illness. We all must die, and I for one would prefer to go suddenly and without a long stroll through the “shadow of the valley of death,” knowing I would die soon and could do nothing to prevent it.

When it is time for me to go...still hopefully many years down the road...I pray that I go as quickly as the turning off of a light switch, and with absolutely no advance knowledge that a finger was reaching for it.

Some call such thoughts morbid or depressing. I call them simple logic.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

I think we all hope for the light switch. No pain, no muss, no fuss. We're going through that with Ralph's father right now. The man has been in constant pain since December, is still in pain, still has things going wrong and we can't get them fixed fast enough before something else goes wrong.

He is going through that prolonged tunnel we don't want to go through. And we fear if it goes on much longer, he'll go to greater lengths to shorten it.