The Tape Measure



Half a century ago, mom was in a traffic accident. She was hospitalized for more than a year, she was seventeen, and you can imagine she had plans other than being hospitalized.

At one particular low-point during her stay she had prompted the doctor for an answer: how long will I have to be here? The doctor had unfurled a roll of measuring tape, and pointed to two centimeters. “Look”, he had said, “You’re going to live for many years. See how little it matters in context. Cut it off, it will not matter in the long view.”

I’ve thought about this story many times, especially in the past few years. Some days feel like they deserve to be torn out of the calendar and forgotten about. Days can become weeks or months. And when the world burns and no one seems to care, it’s easy to feel like nothing matters. If you stare into the abyss long enough, it will stare back.

But I’ve always understood the doctor and his comments as a reminder to focus on the future. The past is a prologue, and with every day a chance to start anew, it means a good future can be written. No matter how little is left when you cut the tape measure.

The Tape Measure