My mother was always on time, and for her “on time” meant being 15 to 30 minutes early for any event. She was not just punctual, she was nearly compulsive about not being late. Some people might say, “Better late than never,” but Mother would say, “Better never late.” I think part of her sense of urgency about time was due to the fact that her own mother died at age 59 of a sudden heart attack. Mother knew that she carried some of those same dangers in her heart, and she wanted to make the most out of her time.
One of the jokes she told on herself was that for all the years after she and Dad moved to Anderson, Indiana in 1947, every time they would drive home to Anderson from a visit back in their hometown in Colfax or from attending a Purdue game (they went to every Purdue home football and basketball game for years after they no longer had kids there in college), Mother would get the house keys out of her purse once they reached Lapel – just to be ready to unlock the door of the house upon their arrival about 15 minutes later in Anderson. She often joked, “I don’t know why I have done that all those years – I guess I just want to ready and not waste any time.”
That sense of being “on time” and “ready” was very urgent with Mother, and I have to admit that I have inherited that same trait. To my wife Marsha’s chagrin, I often arrive early for events – especially to preach at one of our United Methodist churches around Indiana. Often when we pull up in front a church on a Sunday morning, Marsha will look at her watch and say, “Right on time – 30 minutes early.”
Apparently that trait of being early has now extended another generation. Marsha and I left for our Oberammergau trip with 108 folks from Indiana on August 3rd, feeling confident that we would arrive home in time for our daughter Laura’s due date of August 17th. But last Thursday, August 5th, just as we departed our hotel with the group to attend the Passion Play, we received word that Laura was on her way to the hospital for an emergency c-section. Apparently our first grandchild had decided that arriving “on time” meant coming early. So Marsha and I sat through the first part of the Passion Play with our minds, hearts, and prayers focused back in Louisville. At the break of the play our guide here in Germany greeted us with the good news that our son-in-law Adrian had called with the message, “You are grandparents, it is a boy, and everyone is well.” That was welcome news, and we learned the details later that Austin Michael Peace had waited until one hour after his father returned from a trip to Puerto Rico, then promptly decided it was time to be born, and he arrived “on time” 9 days ahead of his due date. He was born by c-section because he had never turned his head down, and the doctor did not want to risk a breech birth. At 6 pounds 13 ounces, and 20 inches long, he is not exactly premature – just early.
I am sad that my mother did not live to see this, her third great-grandchild (all boys), but as Marsha said, “Maybe their spirits passed each other along the way” since Mother just died three week earlier. I am not sure I buy into that Greek philosophy of souls flying in and out of our bodies, but I do know that my Mother is smiling to see a great-grandson with her unique sense of timing. She so much enjoyed watching her two other great-grandsons Jacob and Jesse, and now I am sure she will watch over Austin as he makes it a threesome of life and energy.
These past two years since Mother had a major heart attack and nearly died, her sense of “time” took on a new urgency. I watched her determination to live to attend my sister Jill’s wedding, and also the wedding of our daughter Laura. I know that Mom would have liked to make it all the way to the birth of little Austin, too, but her time ran out.
So I learned from my Mother that time is too important to waste, that every moment is precious, and somehow God’s action in our lives is always on time. I look forward to telling my grandson about his great-grandparents (including Marsha’s parents who died last year), but I think Austin already knows that being “on time” means to arrive early.
from Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana Area of The United Methodist Church