Recurrent Breast Cancer

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

We often make excuses to keep in touch with those who are special to us. “It’s not convenient right now. Let’s do it later.” Pause and ask yourself, “Why don’t I have the time?”

Much of our day is spent doing what’s important for “us.” Multi-tasking, on-line communication, Facebook, Twitter, email, and LinkedIn are the norm. We avoid talking to neighbors, co-workers, and family.  “Not enough time to spare. I’ll get to it tomorrow.”  

I’ve had a long-time fascination with antique clocks. Swinging pendulums, resonating chimes, church bells, wedding bells, and door chimes all make me slow down. 

When I was a teenager, I watched an intriguing movie. There was an eccentric, elderly clockmaker, Ed, who lived across the street from a clock shop. His employer, Herbert, was as a “Scrooge.” When Ed came to work one morning, Herbert glowered as his employee tinkered with an old pendulum clock. Over time, he noticed that Ed spent more time with this clock than all the other timepieces.
One day, he confronted Ed.  “Do you want to keep your job?  I have to remind you time and again that this is a retail business. You have to care of all the timepieces.”

Ed had no reply, but his eyes sparkled as he polished his favorite clock. “Look at it. Cherry wood casing with swirled carvings, and its chime is as deep and colorful as gold. It reminds me of my younger days. It’s part of me.”

Herbert shook his head. “Silly old man. You’re losing your mind.”

“You don’t understand. It is eternal, but I’m not. When the pendulum stops, I die.”

An hour before closing time, Herbert told Ed to go home. He complied. “Thank you. I need the time to clean our chimney and fix the stove.”

After Ed departed, Herbert moved around the store and stopped all the pendulum clocks. “Lost time is lost profit,” he muttered to himself. He switched off the lights, locked the door, and went home.
Let me now take you to a different time. I was a pre-med student at the University of Kansas in the 1970’s. I kept a small LP record player in my room and enjoyed the music of a rock group, “The Byrds.” One of their songs contained a Bible passage from Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3: “To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to be born, a time to die, a time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to gain and a time to lose … .”

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer a year earlier. She did okay for a year or so after radical mastectomy surgery. Calculus, chemistry, and premed courses kept me busy during my second year at the University of Kansas. I promised my parents that I’d come home for spring break, a month away. 

My brother called me two weeks later on a Monday evening. “Clem, Mom died last night. Come home right away.”

I signed out of the dormitory the next morning and travelled home to attend her funeral. 

Let’s now return to the clock shop. Herbert came returned to his store the next day.  He started up all the clocks.  When he came to Ed’s clock, the pendulum dangled motionlessly. He wound the mainspring as tight as he could and nudged the pendulum. It refused to swing. By then, Ed didn’t show up for work. Herbert called his employee. Ed’s wife came on the line. She sobbed, “Edward didn’t wake up from his sleep. He is dead.”

What is the message here? I believe it is this.  None of us have all the time in the world. We need to take time to appreciate and stay in touch with those who are dear to us. 

When your clock fails to chime, will you be prepared?

Dr. Clem's Health Blog

Dr. Clem's Health Blog


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