Time makes little noise during the young years and seems more like a fact of life than anything else. Children add years in a blink, and running late knots most people’s guts. When all is going well, there never seems to be enough of it; but when life gets heavy or hurting, time moves like a glacier.

Time is something we do to ourselves; something we have been doing ever since “when” wasn’t even a word. We have moved from the pre-primitive perception of night and day through theories of relativity to nanosecond technologies. Still, time has its way.

It is easier to realize that in one’s later years when some sense of time’s tyrannies and inevitable end is a daily companion. When there are only a few chocolates left in the box, we can still never know what we are going to get, according to Forrest Gump’s mom, but we all know that there is not going to be another box of chocolates.

In earlier years the fragility of time is mostly about other people. Why is death something that always happens to somebody else? Is it because we are too busy living to even consider dying? Or is it that we insulate our minds against the idea because of our “intimations of immortality?” One would think that along the way the fragility of life would teach some of us at least about death’s constant proximity. But, whatever the reason, many seem to keep death at a deniable distance, oftentimes even on their own death bed.

I do not mean to be morbid with this. I have experienced death up close and personal a number of times. When it comes suddenly, I am left with a sadness for not having had the chance to share a thank-you and goodbye, a laugh and a tear and perhaps a prayer or two. Never is the gift of time more precious than during one’s aging days.

When I turned 60, I began to hear the clock ticking. Years later it is much louder, always reminding me to be grateful for all that life has given but especially for the gift of whatever time remains. The aches and pains and losses of aging may argue strongly against the myth of “these golden years,” but the gift of time itself is meant for living, not dying, into whatever comes next.