We Think We Have Time
Time. It's ever elusive, yet always present. Not to overuse the word, but I've spent quite a bit of time lately thinking about time. It's not an uncommon topic. You can hear the concept in the lyrics of popular songs across all genres. It's in other forms of pop culture and entertainment as well. One need only recall some favorite classic movies or books. That in itself is enough to make me ponder the notion, but I also recently had a personal experience that once again brought these thoughts to the forefront of my mind.
I've been helping to sort through and to clear out some old storage sheds for new owners who may want to sell some items and clear out the rest. Most of the units were filled with junk, trash, or rotten furniture. However, a few of the units were filled with household belongings and personal items, almost as if someone moved out and deposited their belongings in storage instead of taking their things with them. I'll never know why the items were abandoned, but it doesn't matter why the items were left behind. The fact is they were.
Pictures, trophies, knick-knacks, etc. Personal mementos that once meant something to someone. It felt very intrusive to be going through these things. I found myself experiencing the same kind of awe I feel whenever I watch a documentary about events such as Pompeii or the Titanic. Who were these people? What were their stories? And what were they doing when disaster struck without warning? Certainly they weren't planning on not being around the next day, leaving behind artifacts from their personal lives.
Though there was no mega disaster here, I have a hard time imagining that someone purposely left these things behind. I wonder why this part of their lives remained untouched this way, stuffed in a shed and forgotten about. I also wondered if this is a small part of what anthropologists, archaeologists, and historians feel when making their discoveries.
Most of the things were 20 years old, some much older. It's fascinating to find things like old sewing supply kits, complete with antique thimbles and fabric scraps. There was also an electric blanket from the 70's nestled somewhere in the pile of stuff. Never before opened. Though some of the things were from a decade prior to my birth in 1982, I still recognized my youth in much of it. Some of the things might have been found in my own home or in the homes of family and friends. It was a delightful trip down Memory Lane.
And then the fun stopped. My kids found a box full of picture frames. In this box was a clear plastic shadow box and inside that shadow box was a small toddler's jacket, along with his obituary. There was this child's face staring back at me, his time on Earth cut short. I couldn't help but feel somewhat forlorn.
No Big Deal, Except It Was
This little boy was born in 1992 and died in 1995, just 2 1/2 years of age. The obituary didn't reveal much else other than the standard information about survivors and services, but I couldn't just toss this item in the trash like it was nothing. No one puts together something like that intending to lose it later.
I would love to say that I didn't think twice about finding the owner, but the truth is I did because now I felt more like an intruder than I had before. I can't even imagine a loss like that, let alone the shock of a total stranger telling me she found my keepsake somewhere. How long had the item been missing and would its return be appreciated or stir up unwanted reminders of a painful past?
My hesitation lasted only a few minutes, though, because, as I said, no one makes something like that unless it is meant to keep. So I looked up the names of the parents on WhitePages.com, only to come up empty-handed. Of course. Hardly anyone has a land-line anymore. And it costs money to have cell phone information revealed. The only thing I learned on that site was that the parents no longer lived in this city.
So I turned to Facebook, and it didn't take long to locate the child's mother. Nervously, I tried to come up with the right words. But are there any for a situation such as this? I finally just blurted out that although she didn't know me, I found a shadowbox containing a child's jacket and an obituary. I wanted to return it to its rightful owner. Nothing more was said. Then I waited.
I had no way of knowing if she would even accept my request to contact her via Messenger, but if she chose to ignore me there was nothing I could do about it. If I don't usually accept messenger requests from strangers, I had no reason to expect her to read my message. To my complete surprise, however, her response was nearly instantaneous.
After establishing that I did indeed have the right person, she asked where I found it and if she could send someone to pick it up or if I preferred to mail it to her. No long insightful conversation occurred. She said thank you a couple of times, but I will never know the extent of her emotional response. No pomp and circumstance accompanied the exchange when I handed over the priceless treasure to the woman's niece either, although the look of recognition on the niece's face was worth it all. I think she was probably even a little speechless because the thank you from her came as an afterthought, while settling into her car. I hope that if any of these people cried, they were tears of joy rather than sorrow. I hope that bittersweet memories filled their hearts with love rather than grief.
We Think We Have Time
It was all over and done within a few hours. Nonetheless, it was a profound experience for me. How precious is time to you? How often do you think you'd give anything to make things right with someone you cared about? Do you attempt the apology or let the moments turn into years of distance until it's too late? If wishes could change the past, how many moments would you go back and try to change? And don't forget about all the good times. How often do you wish a moment could last forever?
Sadly, we can't hit a fast-forward button. We can't pause time or rewind it. It simply is what it is. The only time we truly have is now. Right this very moment. It's too easy to get lost in time, and I do mean that in more than one way. But it's up to you to figure out what that means to you - what time means to you. It could all end abruptly one day. What will you leave behind?
Time - Dean Brody
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© 2018 Shannon Henry