The Living Years was written in 1988 by two members of the group Mike + The Mechanics.
Mike Rutherford and B.A. Robertson both lost their fathers when they wrote this song which made it a personal endeavor for each of them. This song is very personal to me as well because when I listen to it I always think of my father, Myles Druffel, and I can never get to the end of the song without tearing up and becoming very emotional. This is the line that gets me every time:
I wasn’t there that morning when my father passed away. I didn’t get to tell him all the things I had to say.
It was the morning of September 18, 2008 when the line of this song and my reality coincided, and I would never listen to this song the same way again. My phone rang at 4:30 a.m. while I was still sleeping. My heart skipped a beat as I reached for the phone because I never get calls that early in the morning, so I suspected it was Linda, my step-mother, calling me to tell me my father had passed away. My father was in the advanced stages of Alzheimers, and the family had already decided weeks ago that we would allow him to die naturally rather than having a feeding tube inserted into his stomach. After I hung up the phone, it hit me hard that the living years on this earth were over for my father and all the implications that meant for my life.
I have listened to this song from two different perspectives with a pivotal moment that ended the one and began the other.
The first perspective is looking forward to the next time I will spend time with him. Then after his death, the second perspective is looking back at the memories I had of him. The dichotomy of these two perspectives is stark and finite. All the more reason to be completely aware of how we are treating people during the living years. It has now been nine years since I heard my step-mother’s sad voice on the phone, and time keeps moving faster and faster away from that moment.
My father was married five-times, but my mother was his first wife and the only mother of his three children. I was the middle child with brown hair and sandwiched between two carrot top siblings. My father loved us deeply but his need for approval from his mother and attention from other women weakened his resolve to stay married to my mother and be a fully engaged father with his children. When I was eight years old they divorced, and the separation I felt from my father was devastating. Even though my mother tried desperately to not talk bad about my father during and after the divorce, her hurt, longings and deep sadness permeated my heart and set the wiring in my brain to believe that men are to be idolized yet feared and to be loved only from a distance.
My father was a rebel.
He quit high school at the age of 16 and eventually started his own tuck-pointing business in Chicago because he would never, ever work for a corporation or another man. He loved placing the mortar in between every side of every brick on brick apartment buildings to restored them to their original splendor. He didn’t believe in banks because he didn’t believe in paying taxes, so whenever he would pay for something he would pull out of his pocket a wad of 50 and 100-dollar bills rolled up in a rubber band. He sang like Dean Martin and would thrill people in the smoky bars with his piano playing even though he really didn’t know how to play. He mastered the art of chord runs where his hands would fly up and down the full length of the keyboard and every song would end with a dramatic one finger point on a high key.
Towards the middle of my father’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease and several years before his death, I experienced a very special moment with him. My daughter and I flew to Chicago from Southern California to spend time with my father and Linda, his wife. While Linda was at work, my daughter, father and I were sitting at the kitchen table listening to Frank Sinatra songs. My father couldn’t communicate with words anymore, so we listened to him by watching his facial expressions. Both my daughter and father became very tired so we moved into the living room. For over an hour my daughter slept on the couch, my father slept in a comfy recliner and I sat in a chair wide awake. While they slept, the Frank Sinatra songs continued to play in a loop and Frank’s words resonated down the long, hardwood-floor hallway into the living room. I sat in the chair watching them sleep with tears streaming down my face because I realized my father had always loved me, so I forgave him fully of all the hurt he had caused in my life. My heart ached because I knew in that moment his living years were numbered, and I wanted him to know that I knew he always loved me.
The Bible says in Psalm 90:12:
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
That day, sitting in that chair, watching my father and daughter sleep, I cried and prayed to God that my daughter would never forget her grandfather. I prayed for Linda to have the strength to say goodbye to the love of her life. I prayed that I would always cherish this moment forever. Twelve years have passed since this moment in my father’s living room, and I still can remember every detail of that special moment. God has answered all three of my prayers.
The Living Years inspires thoughts of heaven because it reminds me of how short my time is on this earth. God blesses us with special relationships, and we can’t take them for granted. We need to be aware we are in the living years and not let one day slip by without telling those we love everything we need to say.
The choir of this song gets me every time:
Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye
Don’t assume you have another day with someone you love. Pray to God that he will give you a heart of wisdom to number your days. To number your days is to not waste one day in regret, resentment and apathy. Love those around you NOW. The path to heaven is full of opportunities to love the people around you. Don’t waste the living years.
Please scroll down to the bottom of this page and in the comment box share a time when you were aware of the living years and you had a heart of wisdom to number your days.