Used as an adverb, forever means “for all future time.” Couples want their love to last forever. As an adjective, it means “lasting or permanent.” Pound puppies are looking for their forever home.
Forever is a feel-good word, but does forever really exist? You could make the argument that it depends on how you define “all future time.” If you use our universe to establish the parameters on time, there are few things today that existed when the earth was formed trillions of years ago, and few of today’s earthly things will exist trillions of years from now.
As a child, a promise of forever is comforting. Children don’t question their parents when told their mom and dad will be with them forever. When you’re only six, you don’t think in terms of trillions of years, or that life on earth is finite. You just want to be sure your mom will be there at 3 o’clock to pick you up after kindergarten. Forever easily covers that length of time.
Many teenagers believe they are indestructible, maybe even immortal. To them, the future is something that will take care of itself. They plan as far as their next date, the next football game, or maybe even where they’ll go to college, but forever relationships, careers, or commitments are something for another time. They just hope high school will last forever, and for some it does.
When I was in my early twenties, starting my career and family, my future was filled with opportunity and extended before me, forever, like an Oklahoma sunset. I’d lost my teenage feeling of immortality, but I still didn’t worry about forever. Even my parents were young and productive. Why should I be concerned if forever would end? We all had a lot of living to do.
I enjoyed my career. There were times I wanted my career to last forever, but after a few decades of business travel and time away from home, my goal shifted toward an active, relaxing retirement. If I could afford to retire in my mid-50s, I’d have a long time to enjoy a carefree life. Notice that I used “long time” and not forever to describe how much time I’d have. By then, I knew forever had its limits. My parents were slowing down. I began to see my future in them.
I’ve been retired for nearly ten years. I went on Medicare the other day. My wife and I are fortunate to be healthy and active. We read, write, walk mountain trails and spend a fair amount of time traveling. We have many friends who live nearby; some are younger and some are older than us. We’ve lost friends recently. We’ve reached that point in our lives where we go to more funerals than weddings. Each passing is painful. It clarifies that we only have today. We don’t have forever, at least not on this earth.
Forever gets redefined as we age. I’ve never been a deeply religious person, but I accept there’s a God and there is more to life than what we experience during our time on earth. In this light, maybe a couple’s love can last forever and there really are forever homes.
I certainly hope so.