This is a time of year that we pause and think about time, that fluid something that flows around us from the moment we draw our first breath until we breathe our last.

It is easy to forget time, to believe that we have unlimited supplies of time. But of course, that isn’t true. Each day is a gift. When we wake in the morning, we hope we have that particular day and many others after it, but we have no guarantee.

A friend of mine was diagnosed in June with inoperable, Type 4 lung cancer. She’d had no warning until the coughing started. The doctors gave her four to six months without treatment, not much  longer than that with treatment. She chose to use what time she had left for living rather than dying. She planned to organize her photos for her family, and finish a quilt that she had started for her daughter. She and her daughter had a trip together to Alaska, up the inside passage that had fascinated my friend. She knew her probable death date and used her remaining time well.

I grieve the loss of my friend. But at the same time I admire and cherish her courage. She laughed a lot during her life. She made me smile whenever we met for lunch. She captured her joy in living in her poetry. I never met her son, but her daughter is a charming and talented young woman that any mother would be proud of. My friend’s life was a life well-lived, her time used well.

Everyone has the same one hundred sixty eight hours in a week, and the same eight thousand seven hundred thirty six hours in a year. Of course, you have to sleep sometime. When I was a library director I counted up how many work hours were available for my employees. Counting lunches, coffee breaks, vacations, and weekends off, I estimated that there were two thousand eighty hours available for work per year or roughly one fourth of the total hours.

It isn’t how much time you are given as your lifespan, it is how you use it that makes the difference. After all, Jonas Salk, Mother Theresa and my friend had only those same twenty-four hours in a day, those same one hundred sixty eight hours in a week that you and I have.

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