Stephen Kent

We don’t know the day or the hour when our time on earth will end. Is there not an appointed time for man’s existence on earth to end? Job asked.

Now the 21st century has the answer to that Old Testament question with something called the death watch, as in wristwatch. Formally known as the Tikker, the watch’s digital display shows the years, months, days, hours, minutes and seconds until its wearer runs out of time. It provides a wake-up call until you don’t wake up.

Users are asked their age, weight, smoking and drinking habits, exercise routines and medical history, which are entered into the Tikker. Based on that information, it calculates when your life is likely to end. The Tikker can be reprogrammed to reflect improvements, such as diet and exercise, advancing your projected life span.

It is easy to dismiss other gadgets advertised on television, such as wireless remotes or barbeque thermometers. But imagine standing in a slow-moving line at the coffee shop and telling the barista, “Let’s speed it up, since I’ve only got 20 years, 11 months three weeks, four days, 10 hours, 16 minutes and 45 seconds to get this done.”

As it turns out, the Tikker is not the only predictor of its kind. Scientists in England have developed a device that fires laser beams into the skin of the individual wearing it. It then analyzes the tissue under the skin to ascertain how the body is aging, and calculate how many years are remaining in that person’s life, depending on his or her health conditions.

The Tikker may serve a good purpose as a legitimate aid to think about the unthinkable.

“The occurrence of death is no surprise to anyone, but in our modern society we rarely talk about it. I think that if we were more aware of our own expiration I’m sure we’d make better choices while we are alive,” said Fredrik Cotling, the Swedish inventor of the device.

Author Sheri Fink reflects on death in her book, “Five Days at Memorial.”

“What was it about death in the United States? Why did it seem like Americans were so unprepared for it when it occurred? People often did not want to talk about death with the dying, or be there with a relative when it happened,” she wrote.

Counting down to the time of death could be viewed as morbid. But consider the beginning of life. The happy couple marks the projected date on their calendar, posts the first sonogram on the refrigerator door and waits with joyful expectancy for the day when they’ll bring a new life into the world.

Why not do the same for the ending of life? If there is such happiness surrounding entrance into temporal life, why not even greater for entering eternal life?

A reminder of mortality is not a bad thing. Anything that invites us to think deeper is worthwhile. As the psalmist wrote, “Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.”


Kent is the retired editor of archdiocesan newspapers in Omaha and Seattle. Contact him at: