Leaving Our Mark

Leaving Our Mark

Over the past year, I’ve become more and more aware of the brevity of life on this side of eternity. Little things have helped highlight the rapid passing of time.

This summer, while walking on the beach, I confused my son’s footprints with my own. My breath caught for a moment when I realized it was the silhouette of his 9-year foot and not my own. Needing to see for myself, I called him over and placed my foot directly alongside his, and sure enough, his was the mirror image of mine.

I know, I know, kids grow, it’s what they do, but the memory of my son’s newborn foot cupped in my hand was as clear and vivid to me in that moment as the movement and sound of the ocean’s waves before us.

The Bible compares our lives to a mist that appears for a short time only to disappear (James 4:14). I’m an English teacher. I seek meaning from words. I love to unpack tightly wrapped packages of metaphors and similes and analogies, amazed by the depth of meaning and interpretation a few words can inspire.

Our time here on Earth is like a vapor, a mist, a fog, a smoke, appearing and disappearing. But is that all there is to it? Is it that depressingly simple? Is that ultimately what our lifespans amount to, a disappearing mist? A footprint fading in the sand?

When we wade a little deeper into this metaphor, there’s much more to be discovered. While mist and all of the synonyms associated with it are finite, they are not forgettable or unremarkable. Each leaves an enduring, notable impression on its surroundings.

The mist from the ocean, tiny, microscopic droplets, settles on the surfaces of objects near and far, some hundreds of feet from the sea’s edge.

Smoke permeates a space, filling every nook and cranny, every corner and niche, its scent clinging to any porous surface.

Fog moves in silently and settles over and around roads, buildings, mountains, and valleys, moving to the forefront, temporarily dominating our view.

Vapors diffuse and suspend in the air, hydrating and scenting the atmosphere with infinite aromas.

Wading into the nuances of these words adds layers and layers of meaning to the impact of our lives in this present time and place. Yes, like life, each is temporary. Yes, like life, each is finite. Yes, like life, each moves on, disappearing from our conscious world.

Yet each, like life, makes an unmistakable, permanent impact on its surroundings.

The impact, however, is more substantial at the focal point than it is at the edges because mist, smoke, fog, and vapor all weaken and dilute at the margins.

The same can be said of the mark we’re capable of leaving behind with our lives.

When we overextend ourselves, pushing into the exhausting edges of being overworked, overloaded, and overbooked, the evidence of our existence becomes more scattered and less visible.

When we push out into crowds of the less familiar, of acquaintances and associates and colleagues, our aroma becomes more faint as we can only manage to leave behind hints of our true selves at the perimeters.

I’m moved more and more to be cognizant of the impact my brief time in this place will have on my immediate surroundings.

I’m more mindful of the fringes. I’m more aware of my boundaries.

I’m more stingy about where I allow my mist to fall. I no longer care to sprinkle little bits of myself here and there. Rather, I’m finding home to be the place where I want my droplets to settle.

I’m more particular about where I let my fog linger. I prefer to stay in the forefront for my family and close friends, hovering over them, engulfing them with my time and attention and love.

I’m more deliberate about the people with whom my scent will remain. I know it will be with the people I love and care deeply about and who love and care for me that the scent of my life will tarry forever.

I avoid the ledges now. Yes, now I opt for the beach. I choose to plant my feet firmly in the sand at the water’s edge where the mist from the ocean is at its strongest.

Yes, this life is like my son’s footprints in the sand. Like an early morning fog on the lake, vanishing more quickly than we’d like, but if we’re careful, the mark we leave behind can be everlasting.








  1. Clark Roush, Ph.D.
    Jan 6, 2017

    This is salient and beautifully written. I love how you string words together. Thanks for this – you are a blessing – don’t ever stop writing.

    • admin
      Jan 7, 2017

      Thank you for your consistent support of my endeavor.

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