On my computer I have something that some people might find strange — maybe even morbid: A Death Clock.

The Death Clock is a little extension that shows up every time I open a new browser window to remind me how much time I have left on this Earth . When you set it up, you put in a few details, such as your age, and it calculates how long you probably will live. Right now it reads “6,762 days, 15 hours, 31 minutes, Make them count!”

Although no one wants to think of their own demise, this little app is a reminder of how quickly time flies and how we should use it wisely. It’s a tool to help you see the big picture, rather than just what has your attention right now.

It’s strange how quickly time passes as we get older. Every year seems to go faster than the one before. How did it ever get to be 2020? When did my children grow up? Where did the last 20 years go? What happened to all the things I wanted to accomplish?

Life is short. We’ve all heard that, but do we live like it’s true? Do we live like we have limited time available?

I know I often don’t. I tend to go about my days like time has no end and there will always be a tomorrow. But someday there won’t be.

Sometimes it takes something big and unexpected to get our attention, something like Covid-19. We all know — even if we don’t often think about it — that there are no guarantees and that our lives could end at any moment. But that doesn’t seem real: Sure it could possibly happen, but it probably won’t. Suddenly, the threat seems more real, more imminent.

Thinking about death tends to make modern people uneasy. It’s as if we have this notion that no one should ever die, and that if someone does, something must have gone horribly wrong. In the past, people probably had a different view. Pioneers and settlers saw death all the time and weren’t insulated from it. I’m sure they hated it as much as us, but they probably had a more realistic and accepting view of it.

The other day I was walking in the forest and started thinking about all the trees of different ages, some young, some in their prime, and others dead or dying. Seeing all this, I begin thinking how natural death is, how much it's a part of life, and maybe even how we can learn from it.

Stephen Covey in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” writes how we should begin with the end in mind. He explains that if we imagine ourselves at our own funeral and what people are saying about us, it can help us see what kind of person we want to become and what is truly important.

Another author, John Maxwell, said this about focusing on a lot of stuff that isn’t really important: “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”

How many days and years of my life have I wasted on things that are unimportant but seemed urgent at the time? Mostly I seem to live for comfort and ease. After working hard, I just want to sit and relax and do nothing. Relaxation and occasionally doing nothing are important parts of life. But so are following your dreams and goals, which means being uncomfortable and using your time wisely.

However, even more crucial is giving appropriate focus to the things that really matter and are truly important. If we miss those things, we will have failed at life and wasted our time on this Earth.

What really matters? What I hope matters for me is what author and speaker James Dobson said he would like inscribed on his tombstone someday:

“When I reach the end of my days, a moment or two from now, I must look backward on something more meaningful than the pursuit of houses and land and machines and stocks and bonds. Nor is fame of any lasting benefit. I will consider my earthly existence to have been wasted unless I can recall a loving family, a consistent investment in the lives of people, and an earnest attempt to serve the God who made me. Nothing else makes much sense.”

“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.