It’s 9:45 in the evening. I’m working on a puzzle. It’s one of my favorites. I think it's the picture and the memories it evokes. Not that we lived in a home when I was young. We lived in an apartment – mom, my sister, and I. But the image stirs memories of being with a loving mom who would have baked cakes if she hadn’t been so busy working two and three jobs to feed Andrea and me after our father deserted us.

I always used to ask my nursing students, “How long is it between the ages of 25 and 55?” They’d look at me funny, thinking it a trick question. In a way, it was a trick question. The answer is not 30 years. The answer is about three weeks.

The older I get – I’m past 70 now – the shorter those weeks grow.

Is your mom still alive? Your dad? Please call them. I urge you to do so at least every week. In a few days, or so it will seem, they will be gone. And you will be sorry you didn’t take the time when you had the time.

My mom used to say, “Too soon old. Too late smart.” She learned the aphorism from her father. He probably learned it from his.

Please hear me: You also will one day find yourself too soon old. I only hope you won't also find yourself too late smart.

There is something richly symbolic about receiving ashes on my forehead, and seeing them on the foreheads of others, and hearing the sober words: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The whole moment puts the whole of life – our accumulations, our titles, our positions – the ashes puts the whole of life into clearer perspective.

I’m now reminded of the wealthy farmer who decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones to store all his goods. But he did not know his soul would be required of him that very night, and in short time, he would return to ashes and dust.

We’ve probably heard it before – and if we have not, it’s good to hear it now: Only what we have done for Christ will last beyond our grave.

Nathan gave it to me when he was five. Most people wouldn't think a small piece of glass could convey an important spiritual lesson. But it does:
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