We Think We Have Time

Updated on April 1, 2018
shanmarie profile image

Shannon is a passionate individual whose feelings and thoughts tend spill onto the pages, often in the form of poetry and sometimes essays.

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.

The Task

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

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Shannon Henry


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      • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shannon Henry 

        13 months ago from Texas

        Thank you, Brenda. I was especially touched as soon as I found that particular treasure.

      • Brenda Arledge profile image


        13 months ago from Washington Court House

        Very touching story.

      • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shannon Henry 

        19 months ago from Texas

        Thank you so much, David, for your interest and kind words. Life is full of those moments when something someone else says or does touches us deeply. This was just one instance I was able to do more than think about it.

      • DaveOnline profile image

        David Edward Lynch 

        19 months ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

        This is such an interesting and thought provoking true story, so glad you could return something of value to the right person.

        I also think a lot about time and the past and what the future holds (& about the present) and the times wasted too.

        I really like the quote from William Shakespeare, the last line especially.

      • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shannon Henry 

        20 months ago from Texas

        Oh, I am sorry to hear that. I've had things stolen that were of more sentimental value than monetary value. Still hurts sometimes that I lost those things. Just because people think they can turn a quick buck off if something belonging to someone else. What's shame that your family no longer has that keepsake.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image


        20 months ago from USA

        This was very touching and struck close to home. My great grandmother lost her favorite of three children to a brain tumor. His eyes crossed in school one day, he fell very ill, and there was nothing doctors could do. (He was the smart and well-behaved one, whereas my grandmother was the wild child, and my other great uncle was everybody's buddy.)

        My great grandmother saved the suit and his little wire frame glasses from when he was a small boy and passed them on to me before she died. I still have the glasses, but the full suit, preserved perfectly on a hanger was either lost or stolen in a move. I recall one packer asking a question about it, so I suspect the answer. Someone out there has a dead child's suit from the 1920s and I think of it often.

      • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shannon Henry 

        24 months ago from Texas

        Thank you, manatita. Life is like that, I suppose. But it is always nice to feel centered.

        Yes, I keep meaning to look more closely at some of his work. Thanks for the reminder

      • manatita44 profile image


        24 months ago from london

        You write like you are returning to your Centre. We never really leave ... just spiral. So proud of you and yes, what you did was a very noble act. My friend Ioannis Arnvanitis (Sean Dragon), has written a most wonderful piece on the constraints of time. Check him out.

      • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shannon Henry 

        24 months ago from Texas

        I have since found out that at least one of the people who owned the things in that particular storage unit has passed away. I believe she was the mother-in-law to the mother of the child. But that's just speculation based on names on the obituary.

        Other units has antiques in them and so did this one once we dug further. Records dating back to early 1900s, for one thing. Yes, many questions that are unanswered. Really makes me wonder.

      • Nell Rose profile image

        Nell Rose 

        24 months ago from England

        Oh Wow! What a poignant and amazing find. And yes you definitely did the right thing. I am so glad you found them to hand it back. So surprised to think all of those things had been left like that though, but its something you will never know. what a story, sometimes we get involved a little piece of someones life, but it leaves so many questions.

      • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shannon Henry 

        2 years ago from Texas

        I don't mind the long comments. Besides, I can't complain when I tend to leave them myself.

        I'd return everything if I could. That was still in good enough condition to keep, that is. Some things were rotten or too broken. I've lost too many items of sentimental value in my lifetime to theft, fire, and moving. So I know what you mean by missing those things that weren't returned.

        I think I understand some of what you mean about your relationship with time, too. I always thought we had more in common than you realized.

        But now I have quite literally been on my feet all day long so I am going to go spend some time relaxing at home.

      • fpherj48 profile image


        2 years ago from UpstateWestern,New York

        shanmarie....this particular article of yours caught my attention by it's title. "Time," a word I use often, a concept I ponder even more often. Difficult for me to explain my way out of this odd issue, but "time" and I have had this thing going on. Time has been either my dearest friend or my worst enemy, the score at about 50/50. The song and quotes about time are profound.

        Seriously, for me, time has become a total distraction and I don't like it one bit. This is not to say that I haven't tried every trick I know to deal with my "time" issue.(and I solved problems for a living? Ha! not for myself I don't!) Well, we all have something, right? I keep working at it in the hopes one day I'll figure it out (Eureka!!) and live happily ever after. Oops, sorry, that's another fairy tale.

        Other than needing to mention all the above, I have to say that I have been as shocked & curious as you have been when "finding" abandoned items left behind by so many people. It IS surprising and can make us wonder. When my late husband retired as a law professor, he entered the home based business of Real Estate Management. I tried not to be involved much but would help him out once in a while. I really enjoyed checking out empty apartments & homes immediately after the occupants had vacated. Oh, the things I found. I could write an entire article just on the strange, funny, valuable, often crazy and/or useless things that people abandon when they leave a location, and maybe I will write that hub one day. I can relate to finding really personal belongings as you did and being very curious as to how or why someone would just walk away from these things. I actually tried to find someone in order to return some items. Sadly, I learned this particular person made certain they would not ever be found. When I learned the reason, it made sense to me.

        It was nice of you to do what you did and also good to know the people were appreciative. I know I have accidentally left some things behind when moving and would give anything if someone had been thoughtful enough to try to get them back to me.

        Speaking of TIME....I had no intention of taking up this much time with a comment!!

      • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shannon Henry 

        2 years ago from Texas

        Hi MsDora,

        I like that quote because I think it's comforting. I'm glad you like it too. And thanks for stopping by. I sure appreciate your kind comments.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        2 years ago from The Caribbean

        Really touching! And you drove home the point very well about how fleeting time is. Thanks for sharing the Shakespeare quote.

      • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shannon Henry 

        2 years ago from Texas

        Thank you, Chitrangada Sharon. I appreciate your kind words.

      • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

        Chitrangada Sharan 

        2 years ago from New Delhi, India

        A beautiful and heart touching story, with words of wisdom.

        We must understand that the only time available with us is now. There can’t be a rewind or fast forward. Wonderful article and great message.

        With each passing day, I feel I am running out of time, and there is still so much to do.

        Thanks for sharing!

      • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shannon Henry 

        2 years ago from Texas

        To tell you the truth, Jackie, this was the first time I'd ever heard the song, too. I was searching for a song that fit. There are several that came to mind automatically, but when I heard this one, I had to use it.

        Thank you for reading and for commenting.

      • Jackie Lynnley profile image

        Jackie Lynnley 

        2 years ago from the beautiful south

        Had never heard that song, and such a heart wrenching story. We do think we have so much time when we are young and even if we do not everyone we love does. I know we all have to say it was better to have lost them than never known them.

        Beautifully done.

      • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shannon Henry 

        2 years ago from Texas

        I suppose that, in the general sense, time is relative. But you know what they say, Larry - time that's enjoyed is never wasted.

      • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shannon Henry 

        2 years ago from Texas

        Thank you, Faith-Hope-Love. I appreciate your comments. I'd rather contribute more good than bad, that's for sure.

      • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shannon Henry 

        2 years ago from Texas

        Hi Mary,

        I'd say you're correct on every word. Thank you for your kind comment.

      • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shannon Henry 

        2 years ago from Texas

        Yes, Frank, my thoughts about time have been rather philosophical. And, yes, it does seem to stand still sometimes.

      • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shannon Henry 

        2 years ago from Texas

        Thank you, Eric. You're pretty good at the motivational pieces yourself.

      • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shannon Henry 

        2 years ago from Texas

        Thank you, always exploring. I'd like to think that anyone else would have done the same thing. It's so easy to at least try now that we have social networking at our fingertips.

      • profile image

        always exploring 

        2 years ago

        Very interesting read. Time is truly precious. One day at a time is a great moto to live by. I applaud you for caring enough to contact the family. It is rare these days, people are either too busy or uncaring to bother...

      • Larry Rankin profile image

        Larry Rankin 

        2 years ago from Oklahoma

        I can't ever seem to get anything done. Time is relative.

        Great read.

      • profile image


        2 years ago

        Shanmarie. You have made a few good points. We have to consider Just what we want to have contributed to society. What we would like to have been remembered for. Just how we will have added to Life's Joys. Great work. Lots of Wisdom imparted. Keep it up.

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 

        2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Thanks for the reminder of something we take for granted many times. As we get older, time has taken on a different meaning. We value it more.

      • Frank Atanacio profile image

        Frank Atanacio 

        2 years ago from Shelton

        I can sense the level of perception in this philosophical write.. Time goes for all living things..but when we are touched for a brief moment time stands still.. it really does .

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Beautiful. A great heart warming story. How much time do we have? A great motivational.

      • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shannon Henry 

        2 years ago from Texas

        Thank you, Bill, but I really don't feel like I did anything remarkable. Hugs back at ya.

      • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shannon Henry 

        2 years ago from Texas

        Very true, Clive.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        How sweet of you to contact that woman....my admiration for you just grew bunches.....sending hugs your way.

      • clivewilliams profile image

        Clive Williams 

        2 years ago from Jamaica

        Time is only for humans.

      • shanmarie profile imageAUTHOR

        Shannon Henry 

        2 years ago from Texas

        Hi Zulma, if tears were shed, I hope it was a good cry. I don't know how I would have reacted if she'd come to pick up this item herself.

      • phoenix2327 profile image

        Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

        2 years ago from United Kingdom

        Not many would have been so thoughtful much less gone to the trouble of returning such a keepsake. You are very rare indeed. I'm sure tears were shed over the return of something so precious. I know I did.


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