The Value of Time

by Todd Cullop on October 22nd, 2013

The Value of Time
The older I get, the more I recognize the value of time. Not about how time working equals financial gain, but the relational value of time.
When we’re young, time seems like an endless commodity. We don’t think much about how we spend our time, or with whom we spend it; we just live, doing what we want, with whom we want, when we want.
As I grow older, and life brings more choices and stresses, I realize that our time is limited, especially the time we have to spend with people we love.
When I was a kid, we lived close to my father’s parents, and spent a lot of time with them. My grandfather Ernie was not really someone I enjoyed spending time with.  He had white hair, and big glasses, and always wore cardigan sweaters. I mostly remember him spending a lot of time sitting in his chair, reading a newspaper.  He didn’t pay a lot of attention to me.
When he did talk to me, he usually seemed kind of grumpy, and it felt like he was always correcting me…
“Chew with your mouth closed…don’t run in the house…eat your vegetables…”
I didn’t like going to his house.
As Granddad grew older, he seemed to grow a little kinder, and less cranky. I began to spend more time with him when I was in my 20s.  I remember how excited he was when I decided to go to seminary and pursue a life in ministry.  Occasionally I would go to his church, and he bragged about me to his friends.
When I was ordained, part of the service included a time where people laid hands on me and prayed for me. I remember the feel of my grandfather’s hands on my shoulders as he prayed for me, his husky voice cracking.
In my late 20s I moved to Texas. Granddad and I would talk on the phone once in a while, and I always went to visit him and Grandma when I was home on holidays.
After ten years away, I moved back to Virginia. My grandmother had passed away while I was gone, and Granddad was now by himself.   I was working in a new ministry, and back in grad school. Jamie and I were engaged; life was busy.
On Monday nights I had class, just a couple miles from Granddad’s house, so I used to go by and visit with him.  Often we would sit on his porch, watching evening fall on the neighborhood where he spent most of his life.
I got him to open up about stories from his life, like the time he went AWOL in the Army so he could go home and see Grandma before he had to go overseas.  He talked about his family, and his travels around the world, and his faith.  I realized how much his faith had impacted me during my lifetime.
In the summer of 2003, a few months before my wedding, Granddad got sick and went into Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg (the same hospital where my children were born).
I was busy with work and wedding planning, but tried to get by and visit him when I could. He was fading, and never stayed awake for very long. I would tell him what was going on, read a little to him from the Bible, and just sit with him for a while.
One afternoon Jamie and I were out running some errands, and she asked if we were going to see Granddad. I was tired, and to be honest, I just wanted to go home and relax.  But instead I said, “Yeah, let’s go see him.”
We drove down to the hospital and went into his room. It was evening; activity at the hospital was winding down.  Granddad was sleeping, but woke up when we entered his room. We talked for a bit, about work and the wedding plans. He was tired, but seemed glad to see us (especially Jamie).
After a while we got up to leave. I said goodnight to him, and told him I loved him, then Jamie said goodnight and gave him a hug. He closed his eyes and drifted off as we left.
Granddad died in his sleep a few hours later. Our time together was over, at least in this life.
As a child, I didn’t really enjoy spending time with Granddad. As a young adult, I began to spend time with him more as an obligation.  In the later years of his life, I realized that the time I had with him was limited, and special, and I actually enjoyed spending time with him.
I’m thankful for the faith that he taught and modeled for me. I’m thankful for the strong sense of right and wrong he passed on, and for the times he supported me and helped me.
I’m thankful that I spent his last evening with him, and told him I loved him. I’m thankful that Jamie’s face was the last thing he saw in this life.
But most of all, I’m thankful for the time we spent together over the years—talking, eating, going to church, relaxing on his porch, and just being together. I am a better man because of the time I spent with my Granddad.

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