It is my dear son James' birthday today. He is 33. I will be 63 next month. He has a young son, Hugo, who is 1+. Recently, we have been talking a lot about time. James no longer feels like a kid in any way. He can also see that I am not even middle aged but on the edge of being old.
We are thinking more about the long chain of all lives rather than just our own. When I buried my father, James who was the same age as Hugo is today, stood by my side with his little hand in mine. I knew at that poignant moment that one day in the future, one of us would bury the other. I can only hope that it is me in the grave and James and Hugo looking down at me.
Today, on his birthday, I think of my own father. I am now 8 years older than he was when he died. I am the same age as his father was when he died. I see the line of our people trailing back. Trailing back not just over the last 100 years but way back. Trailing back to our family coming to Canada in 1765. I wonder what were their hopes then?
I look back further. I look back to the times of the Covenanters in Scotland who upheld a new sense of God. I look back to my mother's family of Vikings who settled Orkney. What was life like for them? How could they have imagined us today?
My story and yours is a miracle isn't it? We are all descendants of a long line of people who successfully raised a child who then had a child. Think of the odds against us!
And the line goes back further - so much further. It goes back to before we were human. It goes back to when we were hominids; little mammals; bacteria and to when we were stardust.
All had to be aligned to bring each one of us to life. That is the miracle. Every element had to be right. The slightest deviance from the required norms, and we would not be here today.
This miracle, makes me wonder about how much we waste life too. Do we take this miracle for granted? With such a miracle behind us, do we live our lives accordingly?
It is a miracle that needs no proof either. The proof is me and you. I need no religion or faith to be grateful for my life.
Each of us, lowly or high, are the result of a miracle. We are stardust shaped as people.
And what of the future? James and Hugo and Hope and Alfie and Sophia are my hope of a human future. They have my own story locked in their genes. They have my humour and my hands. Their DNA has a biography of 4 billion years. And if they are the end of our family line. It is not the end.
For just as we all start with stardust and bacteria, we surely all end back there too.
There is always home ahead.
A friend offered these words from the Lord of the Rings at my father's memorial. They sum up everything for me:
- The Road goes ever on and on
- Out from the door where it began.
- Now far ahead the Road has gone,
- Let others follow it who can!
- Let them a journey new begin,
- But I at last with weary feet
- Will turn towards the lighted inn,
- My evening-rest and sleep to meet.