Your days are short here. This is the last of your springs. And now, in the serenity and quiet of this lovely place, touch the depths of trusts, feel the hem of Heaven. You will go away with old, good friends. And don’t forget when you leave why you came.
Last Friday I had these lines in my head all day long. Of course they’re dear to me, because Adlai Stevenson delivered them at Princeton. He was speaking to the class of 1954 and with tremendous personal knowledge, because he himself graduated in 1922. So these words always, instantly, bring to mind the four marvelous springs I spent at Princeton: the magnolias and the music, the beer and the bravado, the mundane and the magical.
But it wasn’t Princeton I was thinking about last week. I was considering these lines in a new way. Our days are short everywhere. All of our seasons – those defined by the sun’s presence or absence from the Earth as well as those whose demarcations are emotional – eventually draw to a close.
And we ought never forget, even when something ends, why we began it. This is another universal statement; in my experience, very often something begun with intention, verve and enthusiasm can wind to an utterly unanticipated close. Still, I have to remind myself, there’s value in the journey, no matter where it takes us. But I also need to remember – we all do – why it is we set out in the first place. Even if we didn’t go where we thought we would.
While I don’t know yet precisely what it is in my life that’s ending, these words in my head, my ever-keener awareness of earth’s very rotation underneath me certainly speak of the thinning out of a season. I am crossing through, I think, the attenuated border of one phase and into another. Though some of life’s seasons end abruptly, I think these transitions are mostly gradual, with one interval of time fading into another before we’ve even realized what is happening.
In these moments when I realize how short my days are, the challenge is to open my eyes to the radiance of all that is coming even as I mourn what is lost. Today, anew, as we turn towards the days of magnolias again, I will try again to be as aware of welcoming the beginning as I am of grieving the end.
What’s ending for you? And beginning? Do you remember why you came?
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