"Best By" Labeling!

I think it is another sign of advancing age that we begin to reach beyond the"best by date" on a gallon of milk! I used to be horrified when my mother would drag out the breakfast milk and the date on it had expired the week before. I would say, "Mom! Do you realize that the date on this milk expired a week ago?" And without a direct answer she would state the obvious, "Your dad and I just don't drink milk like we used to!" I may have mumbled, "You think?!" Now that I am retired and on Medicare, I have picked up the same habit of trying to stretch beyond the "best by dates" as far as I reasonably can!

I have read around this subject using my computer "search engine" over the years, especially when we take obligatory pantry or refrigerator inventory on occasions. I am more apt to use a canned good that has expired its "best by date" than I am a salad dressing that has been languishing in the fridge for so long that it has changed to an entirely different color! The experts say that the term "best" can be relative. On some occasions, it refers to product quality or flavor. Another time you will see a "sell by date" on meat at the grocery store and they say that can apply to both quality and inventory. There is the nuance, "use by date" to suggest peak quality. So, there is a certain subjectivity to this discussion.

Have you thought recently about the fact that a person's life span has an obvious "shelf life?" The Bible says, "It is appointed unto man to die once" (Hebrews 9:27, ESV). When you get into your late sixties, you begin to get more in touch with your mortality by attending funerals with increasing regularity. As you close in on seventy, it is safe to assume that you are knocking on the door of the "three score and ten" terminal point for life as the Psalmist instructs, "The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away." (Psalm 90:10).
Pantry Inventory: "Best by dates!"

Rather than being depressed by all these aging issues, think of the alternative! Sometimes, you will hear a flippant and somewhat humorous response to living with all the aches and pains of aging, "We could be pushing daisies from six feet under!" This can be a delicate discussion with folks a lot like my dad who regularly exclaims at 89 years of age, "I'm not old!" Dad is twenty-one years my senior, yet I'm the one who often remarks publicly about my age using a football metaphor and saying, "I am in the final quarter of this game of life and I want to finish well."

About ten years ago I began to get comfortable with the fact that I have physical limitations. Osteoarthritis, along with being overweight, eating a poor diet and spending no time for exercise had ravaged my left hip joint. I underwent a total hip replacement and received a very expensive prosthesis that has a projected "shelf life" of 15 years that for me will expire in 2027. I hope to get further beyond that "best by date" for sure! 

Then, this spring I had another "wake up call" to my mortality when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had to undergo a May biopsy and then later in the summer to receive a delicate procedure from my oncology and urology doctors. The first of September they injected 75 radioactive "seed casings" into the gland with hopes of putting this low, stage two cancer into remission. I should know the results in about six months. The experts say that such treatments can lengthen one's life expectancy ten years in 90% of the cases. Again, I would welcome an extension of this "best by date" as well!

I am beginning to understand the Scripture's prayer for daily living, "So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12). This is an admonition to make the most of our days because they are few in comparison to all of eternity! James also reminds us not to live with presumption. He warns those of us who love to plan out our lives. Since "you do not know what tomorrow will bring...instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that'" (James 4:14-15). The next time you see a "best by date," think on these things!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,
active churchman and
doting grandparent.
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com


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