the passage 2

As I stepped out into the still, cold December air the other evening, I looked up into the cloudless night sky and was treated to a sight that I haven’t seen in a long time: a ring around a brilliant full moon.  Yes, I understand that, astronomically speaking, there really wasn’t a ring around the moon.  What I saw was just an optical, atmospheric phenomenon caused by high altitude ice crystals refracting the moonlight.  Yes, yes, I know that “moonlight” is technically sunlight being reflected toward Earth by the lunar surface.  Thank you, Sheldon Cooper!  Just let me call it a ring around the moon, okay!

Upon seeing this halo of light in the sky, I instantly began to recall (and soon thereafter began to sing) the opening lyrics of an old Dan Fogelberg song, “In the Passage,” which begins, “There’s a ring around the moon tonight, and a chill in the air.”  I muddled and mumbled my way through the lines that followed until I got to the chorus: “And in the passage from the cradle to the grave, we are born, madly dancing.  Rushing headlong through the crashing of the days, we run on and on without a backwards glance.”  It has been years since I have heard that song, which appeared on Fogelberg’s epic 1981 album, The Innocent Age.  I’ll comment at a later time on music’s incredible ability to permanently etch itself into our hearts, minds, and memories.

“The passage from the cradle to the grave…”

Maybe it was because the end of another year was fast approaching, or perhaps because I reached the half-century mark a couple of months ago, but for whatever reasons I found myself ruminating for quite a while on this “cradle to the grave” imagery.  I’m farther along in that passage than I have ever been before.  Given the “seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years” of Psalm 90:10, I’m most likely well beyond the 50-yard line in my march toward the end zone.

The run-up to the New Year always brings a host of retrospectives that recount the deaths of notable individuals during the year.  This year, in particular, it struck me that an entire generation or two of people with whom I have been familiar since childhood were passing away:  Neil Armstrong, Dick Clark, Earl Scruggs, Davy Jones, Larry Hagman, Robin Gibb, Andy Griffith, Ernest Borgnine, George Lindsey, Doc Watson, Levon Helm, Jack Klugman, and many others.  Each of these was memorable to me for different reasons.  I began to ponder how my grandmother, Louetta Pyles, must have felt at the age of 101 when all of her contemporaries and those with whom she grew up were gone.

The takeaway for me from all of these considerations was a reminder of just how precious our time on this planet is.  Each day is a gift from God (James 4:14-15).  Moments are far too valuable to be wasted on regrets, bitterness, jealousy, grudges, pettiness, and trivialities.  It was a wake-up call to “number my days” (Psalm 90:12) and “make the most of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:16).

Live, love, learn, serve, give, teach, pray, support, encourage, grow, correct, confess, forgive, embrace, laugh, weep, wait, etc.  These are the things that I want to dominate my days until I cross the goal line or until the Lord returns.  I just want to be ready whenever He decides to blow the whistle (or trumpet) and signal the end of the game.