Inching Closer to The Finish Line

Today I celebrate my 79th birthday and begin my 80th year–or ninth decade–on the Planet Earth. What that means for anyone my age or older, is that the finish line is coming into sight though still hazy and (hopefully) some years away.  I choose that image carefully. Life for us humans—and perhaps for all creatures—is a race. There is a start and a finish for every life. Before the start we do not know how long the race will last or what obstacles will stand in our way or what shape we will be in when we finish.

Will the course be long, or will it be short? Will it be flat and smooth or rocky and hilly? Will we fight monsters along the way? Will we dust ourselves off and keep going when we stumble? Will we break an ankle or a leg? Will we help fellow racers who fall?  When we cross the finish line, will we feel victorious or sad or just relieved that the race is over?

For many years I was a serious runner. I was never all that fast but loved long distance running and participated in a whole bunch of 10-milers, a couple of half marathons and one full marathon (the 1984 Marine Corps Marathon, which I did not finish but made my goal of 20 miles—for me a major achievement). I remember the feeling when I would cross the finish line, having given the effort all I had. Since I always was toward the back of the pack, I was not competing against anyone, just trying to do my best. But what a feeling of relief and pride when I crossed the finish line even though the leaders in the race had long before departed for home.

The questions as we stumble across the finish line of life’s race are these: So how well did you run the race? Did you give it your best effort? Did you help others along the way? Did you make a difference?

How you answer these questions in your heart of hearts will determine whether you finish with pride or regret or just relief that at last the race is over.

8 thoughts on “Inching Closer to The Finish Line

  1. Happy Birthday Joe!
    and my very best wishes for a very remote finish line, as befits a long distance runner.

  2. Happy Birthday! And rest assured that in that hopefully-in-the-distant-future day when your race is over, you will definitely have made a difference. I’ve no doubt that a hearty, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” awaits you.

  3. Happy Birthday, youngster!

    I reach the 80 marker in June – but not (I hope) the end of the race. What’s left is still exciting if, occasionally, a touch boring!!


  4. If we are trying to size things up for fun, try this perspective ( of a dog!)


    The dog trots freely in the street…
    (By Lawrence Ferlinghetti)

    Also, however, it’s a worthy exercise to reread your story of your perspective from years later of your participation in the 1960 Freshman Cake Race.(It is somewhere on your blog, right?) That race took place only a few years after Ferlinghetti wrote Dog.

    When I take my jogging run today, I will have much to think about! And I may add to your blog a thought here to there as I am trotting in the street…

    One of them may be about the cover sketch you did for the cover of the 50th anniversary edition of the Scripts ‘n Pranks for the Class of 1960, showing us with cane in gand headed toward the Finish Line ( the 60th class reunion in 2024) We need to do a 60th anniversary edition…

    Another take on us is from Is this Anything? By Jerry Seinfeld. Fun to read, and take note of his take on dogs. Irreverant. Or read page 94!

    But I like St Paul: “ to each is given a manifestation if the spirit for the common good.”

    Your thoughtful observation about life being a race comes out of the required reading of ‘God and Man at Davidson,’ a book that we all are writing together. It would be good to read what each of us has written to date, but if we can’t, we, at least, have your blog. And, we can turn to the Christmas Eve story that you prepared for your grandchildren. No Faux News it.

    It was ‘a manifestation’ of a friend.

    Happy Birthday!

    On my To Do list:
    (I will send you my take on the word FRIEND separately. )
    (i will send you the text of Dog separately)
    (I will send you Is This Anything?)

    Sam’s take on the word Friend (memorialized in the aforementioned SnP) was this:

    ‘A friend is someone you give yourself’

  5. Happy birthday, Joe! You’re my godfather and have always been my role model. If I reach the finish line having helped others half as much as you, I will consider the race to have been well run.

  6. Happy birthday. Wonderful thought-provoking letter. First, you made me think I don’t see life as a race, maybe as a game? then refined that to being about having fun and being helpful? Not as a course to run, but as a gift to enjoy. And by the way feeling Sooo lucky to have such meaningful, sincere, and experience-expanding friendships as you guys (and many others), not to mention Alec. I feel there is something out there later (Alec had a psychic high school friend who was hard to not believe in), but what we can do here is live the best life we can, enjoy it, and try to enhance the whole thing.

    As I get older I more and more admire my mom’s idea: ‘I believe when it’s your time, its your time; so I don’t worry about it’. And she lived to 96, died after just a few days at home with morphine, with family around and having 2 chocolate sundaes, saying ‘delicious’. I think she had the right idea.

  7. Sharry,
    Thank you for your thoughtful and profound comment. I do not disagree with anything you wrote. Life here on this small, lonely, blue planet has a spiritual and mystical dimension and I too feel I have been blessed.

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