When I was a young man, my father often told me that as I aged, time would speed by at a much more rapid pace.

At that period of my life, I wondered if this was a true statement that applied to everyone. As I now look back over the path of my life, his statement was most accurate. It seems today that even youth comment on how fast time evaporates.

No matter our age, we periodically have moments of reality checks that jolt us into a realization that cannot be denied. One such moment arrived recently for me and my wife.

After nearly 65 years of marriage, we thought it necessary to purchase burial plots. Reality comes in many differing ways, but this purchase shouted to us of our extended maturation, or more realistically stated: We are getting old.

Knowing full well that our cemetery plots have nothing to do with where we will be at our passing, yet we felt there should be a place for future generations to be reminded of our time spent here on earth. Some might say this is a morbid thought and action, but we felt it a necessity nonetheless.

Possibly the most vivid point of reality was the ordering and setting of headstones. Seeing your name and date of your birth engraved forever in granite somehow causes recollections of all the happenings of these speeding years.

Upon most headstones, the date of birth is followed by a dash or spacing to later add the date of passing. Thinking upon these symbols, especially the dash, causes one to realize how fast life has passed. In reality, looking back, it has been a dash and not a marathon.

The reason for this column and the sharing of personal actions is to alert all of us, no matter our age, to the realization that life at its longest is very brief when looking back in retrospect. It has been stated that we cannot lengthen life by our own efforts, but we have the capability to broaden it daily. The last passing second cannot be recalled or relived.

The most impressive remembrances of our lives are moments not days, weeks, or years. Those who have been observant contributors to society and individuals may look back with pleasure and fulfillment upon a life, although it was a dash, with utter joy of accomplishment and meaning.

The old adage of being too soon old and too late smart is befitting of the realization of lessons learned by hard and trying means during our lifetime learning experience. It is impossible for youth to think old and for old to think young. Life is an educator, and the classroom is our daily attempt to cope and achieve.

These lessons cannot be taken online or even fully understood in the pages of books, no matter how intellectual or well meaning the authors’ intentions. Looking at these headstones brought the realization that the majority of our lives’ work has been forever written.

Joys, marriages, births, friendships, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and, yes, deaths – the list can be endless. They flood our heart and emotions with a genuine gratitude for all life has brought and taught us.

Our hope is that some who read this column will stop and take inventory of their life and the speed by which it will pass. Hopefully, the next time a deep breath is taken in the race, you will reflect upon your journey and evaluate the allotment of time and energy given to the things of lasting value.

Booker T. Washington wrote: “I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.”

In our life’s journey, we often underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring. All of these have the potential to turn a life around.

All we have attained, whether wealth, position, or influence, should be shared. The fact that death is inevitable is overshadowed by our opportunity to live each day to its fullest and endeavor to build a life of giving ourselves to the needs and encouragement of others. Live your life, and forget your age.

I hope this column has not been morbid because this was not my intent. I have endeavored to share with you a time we all must face. In the future, do not look for us beneath the headstones that denote our time spent with you. But rather mentally and emotionally picture us looking down and cheering you on in hopeful anticipation of a future reunion.

Life is God’s gift to us; what we do with it is our gift to Him.

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