This year is a leap year which means we get an extra day. Every four years, the additional twenty-four hours, called an intercalary day, is added to the shortest month of the year, February.
My uncle was born on a February 29 and we tease him that this year he is now going to be an adult, finally making it to eighteen, when of course he’s actually well into his seventies. It’s certainly not an original thought and I imagine all people born on the twenty-ninth day of February hear the same joke every four years.
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about my uncle, my father’s youngest brother, not just because his birthday is nearing but also because of the events that have happened to him in recent months.
Early November a fender bender led to a hospital visit which led to X-rays, which led to the finding of a tumor, which led to surgery which led to a stroke which now leads him to a birthday (all 18 included) that will be like no other.
This series of events for a very active man that started with a somewhat insignificant traffic accident and has, at least for now, ended in a rehabilitation center with lessons on how to swallow and sound out a word has reminded me of just how things can change in a day or in second. Nothing can be taken for granted.
I wrote a column once about the gift of February 29, the gift of an extra day given in a leap year. I wrote that I have on more than one occasion bemoaned the fact that 24 hours were not enough to do what needed to be done or that I sometimes wish for just one extra day, a little more time to finish a project or to enjoy a longer vacation.
I wrote that leap years give us that opportunity, grant us that wish but that most of us will spend it exactly like we do all the others, flying through it without stopping to recognize the gift of the extra day. No one I know actually celebrates the date as some special occasion.
This February, however, as I toast my father’s brother and the remembrance of his birth, as I celebrate the gift of his life, I hope I can remember that it’s a special day for more than just a couple of hours.
It’d be nice if I could stop just for a second and honor time and every hour I get to be with beloved friends and family members, every moment that I get to enjoy good health and loving relationships.
And maybe if I can stop for once this February then perhaps I will celebrate and be grateful next month, too. After all, every day is a gift and if we live with such a mindset then maybe we wouldn’t take time for granted and maybe every hour we have would be just enough.
Lynne Hinton is a minister and author: www.lynnehinton.com