My dad turned 89 yesterday.
He was born June 8, 1929.
For my dad, it’s the kind of age where people who don’t even know him say things to me like “oh that’s a good age”, or “they had a good life”.
Other than a few issues he had a number of years ago he is in good health. I love the fact that he has lived a long life. I hope he has many years left to live this precious thing we call life.
Today is my brother’s birthday.
He was born on June 9, 1956.
He would have turned 62 today.
He didn’t live past the age of 14.
When I talk of my brother Bobby, I tell them he died at 14. People immediately change their demeanor and they say how tragic. They end up saying something about how his life was cheated and it was too young.
I get it. I understand what they mean.
However it causes me to pause and one of these days I will respond, instead of with a smile (the just-nod-and-smile type of smile), with what I really want to ask, which is “what was bad about only living to 14? or what is so good about living to 89? what makes you say that?”
This isn’t a suggestion that either had a bad life… or necessarily a good life. I’m not going to go there.
The value of a life lived is not for me to determine.
Society tends to judge the value of a life simply by its length.
A complete stranger who couldn’t even tell you my father’s name, let alone anything about him, could make a comment about him having had ‘a good life’, seeing it as good simply for its length.
Imagine if we judged everything this way!
“How is that book you’re reading?”
“Well it’s 1321 pages”
“Wow, sounds amazing – I’ll have to borrow it after you!”
The question remains….1321 pages of what? Meaningless drivel?
The length of a book has no impact on the value of that book.
Now… in no way am I implying that my dad’s life has not been a good one. I believe he has and will continue to live a good life. But simply because of my dad’s age, doesn’t mean that a life lived into their 90’s was a good life. Nor does it mean that because my brother died at 14 that his life wasn’t good either.
I’m not interested in the length of someone’s life. 100 years, 89 years, 57 years, 14 years. This tells you nothing. It doesn’t tell you if they had a ‘good life’ or not.
I want to know the breadth of their life. I want to know how wide they lived, not how long. How much did they take from life? How much did they give? How much did they love? How true were they to themselves? How true were they to their dreams and what mattered to them?
People struggle with accepting death because anything less than 80 or so years is considered not enough or unfair somehow – but this is no way to measure living.
It’s time to stop measuring the value and worth of a life by the time it has occupied.
We ought to measure life… not by how many years were lived… but by how the days of their life were lived.