The Problem with Time

It’s strange how death hits you at various stages. I am not sure where I am, though I suspect that those stages are much more blurred than they are distinct. But I do know that what I could not do a month ago, I now can do. Some of the complexities of life have now become the norms, the habits, and the regularities. Don’t be so quick to infer this as moving forward. The healing of one wound is good, in and of itself, but the natural corollary is that it only intensifies the realization that the other leg is still bleeding.

I’ve found myself on a number of occasions having to making a choice: think about B. or don’t. Read B.’s writings, or don’t. Look through her pictures, or don’t. Listen to her voice-mails, or don’t.


Is it messed up that lately the memories have become more and more difficult to focus on. I often wonder why. One would thing that there would be joy, or at least appreciation, in bringing about memories, looking at the pictures, and so forth. Think about the good times, they say again and again.

The problem with time is that we’re incapable of moving it for our own benefit. The future is unknown, despite how much we like to talk like it is. B. and I did this, often, not knowing how futile our speech really was. But the past is known. It is written, done, complete. It is descriptive, in every sense of that term, and it does not matter whether that finality is related to goodness or evil, pleasure or pain. The experience of a birth of a child is as far from tangible as the death of a spouse. We can never get back there or beyond it. We are forced by our own existence to carry on, again, whether for good or evil, pleasure or pain. Frankly, it’s a nauseating feeling to remember what you can never recover. This is not to say that I am living without the past; it is merely to say that trying to remember it with all of its distinction feels like an attempt to reach back into it, touch it, and bring it into the here and now. Is this what I’m doing? Am I allowed to sit in these memories? Will they cause me more harm or will they help me value her? It varies. When I’m alone at night it’s the worst. I almost hear her breathing only to realize that it’s only the indelible impression someone leaves on you after you’ve listened to it for so long.

I thought the same thing tonight when I put L. down to sleep. She’s leaving her baby stage and entering into her own independence. I will never see her at six months again; I will never know what it was like to hear her first coos. I will never know what it’s like to hold her for those first few nights of her outward existence. She smiles and laughs regularly now and her voice is becoming more distinct, more her own. But it is not very difficult for me to see her earlier pictures or watch her videos for the simple fact that when I turn away or when they cease playing, I still have her here in the moment, still growing, still living, and still thriving. I cannot have that with B. The memories may remind me of the good times–certainly this is true. But they equally remind me of the fact that the once touchable lies in an untouchable place.

It is this reason why I’m having difficulty going through the pictures, : I cannot get back at them and I cannot bring her back from them. I may remind myself of the time she told me she loved me, or the time we fought and then made up, or the time that I married her, or the time she told me we were going to have a child. There are a million more memories. But I can only get back at them in my mind, not in my existence. My existence is forced to carry on in a sort of permanency which my mind and heart still do not know.

Time is a problem. Time has become my enemy.



  • Jeremy

    I appreciate your depth and candor, Randy. The truth is, you are articulating in painful detail the hidden experience of everyone trapped in the transient world of blossom and decay. Our culture does a good job at numbing the decay by saturating us with new blossoms day after day that come with the promise of permanence, the promise of satisfying the inner void that, like a fiery oven, digests everything subject to change, every time-bound experience, because it can only be filled with something that abides. The heart demands the infinite and the world refuses to produces it.

    “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecc. 3:11).

    I think your experience brings to the surface what most of us keep buried. You are right that time is your enemy, because time is everyone’s enemy. But most of us keep throwing coal in the void and create the illusion of a friendly world. But one day we will all be swallowed up. And we will have either heard your warning or we will have not. We will have either discovered our need for and discovery of transcendence or we will have not. We will have either have an appropriately placed hope in the Vine or a displaced hope in its blossoms.

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope that you will continue to do so. You speak as someone in the void that we all try to avoid but that is inherent in every man. He who has ears, let him hear.


  • Meridith Whitaker

    Beautifully written; I feel like you’ve articulated some thoughts that many feel and never know how to express. Praying for you!