Rebekah taught me to drive stick shift in her husband’s Jetta on the narrow northside streets of Chicago. She was a preschool teacher, so we all bargained that her patience would outlast her husband’s in teaching me to shift gears and stamp down the clutch at just the right time. Though we had gone to the same college, I first met Rebekah at church when we attended small group together. Many years later, she cradled and swooned over my six-week-old daughter at a friend’s wedding in Wisconsin. She and her husband had left their two kids back home with her parents in Oregon to take a red-eye out for the occasion. They chuckled about her rough transition back to teaching after years of staying home: who exactly was supposed to do the laundry now? Just weeks after that, she was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer.
It’s eerie to watch someone die through the windowpane of social media. You observe the trips taken, the events documented, the final words crafted to share with a gaping world. When someone is dying, you pay attention to how she lives. You scrutinize her actions and words. You listen to and hope to internalize her wisdom. Books like When Breath Becomes Air, a memoir by a surgeon who wrote it during his last year of life, offer secrets to the living about how the dying spend their final days.
Rebekah survived nearly four years. In the months before she died at age forty-one, she shared a blog post called “Benedictions of Peace,” which concluded, “I truly believe that God will redeem this path, my pain and the hurt of those around me for His glory and our family’s good. Yes, there’s a loss of future time in the sense that my limited eyes can see, but my heart has been opened to the inescapable beauty of my right now. It’s one of the hardest tensions I’ve ever known. It’s learning to live in Kairos time.”
I had heard the word kairos before, but never thought much about it. Since my friend found comfort and meaning in the concept, I started paying attention. What did it mean? What was I missing? Could I learn to live in kairos time too?