“She was my salesman”. It was a curious sentence about 20 min into the conversation. She may have been his third wife, but she was his place of rest and she had gone to her ‘place of rest’. The look was of sorrow and grief, but not the look of the lost. I have seen that face as well. He had lost more than his sales force; he had lost his companion. I had been given a moment of value that I had not expected. I was privy to a moment of his soul working through the wound and loss of a dear one…
It was the first time we had met. I just wanted to know something about the guy and his business. He told of his father being in the business for years, that he had taken over and that his father had passed only in the last year. His wife was diagnosed and passed in less than nine months… Is there a better word than shock? He had to pick up his son from school soon so he would need to be going. “I have enjoyed this time with you”. He said it like he meant it, and he smiled.
I don’t know what those moments are to others, but I know what they are to me. Something to be held onto for times yet to come. There is something about driving down the road and then a memory will come to my mind, something like this, and I will be humbled by the gift of a story that another soul has shared. Something that is precious and hidden and of great worth, brought out to be told to one that they believe is worthy and that will be gentle with their tender things. I hold onto these as a way to remember and to balance life against the rest of humanity. It is not a contest, but it is a way to put some perspective on things. It is not about them so much but a litmus test of how I am doing with the things I have been given to deal with.
It is a stolen moment that is to be guarded with the value of its worth. The thought of you when I look across the car and think of things you have endured in these years you have trod on this part of the earth. The times when, in a period of solitude, I think about your support and your encouragement that you don’t even remember, they were so normal for you and so valuable to me. The glance my way and I met your eye. The time that you alone spoke of my value when it was far from true to me. I stole that moment from you and put it in a place that holds such things, to be looked at on another day. I will use your same tone of voice and inflection. I stole those as well.
Many are these stories that I carry. Wide in scope and so very different from each other. Some filled with great sorrows and some of embarrassing moments. Some with great shame and darkness, told for the first time in a very long time. Told to me… Stolen but not like a thief that violated. Stolen in a way that allows the covering to be removed and the hope to be let back in. Stolen from the future of darkness and given to yourself as a salve that makes the dry place supple again. That the part that needs to bend will do so without the pain of the skin being pulled. The knowledge that it will be better now. Now that the story is out. A stolen moment, of hope believed in, perhaps.
I often have wondered where these stories reside in my head. Like a filing system that can be called upon to retrieve it in a time of need, one will come to the surface and remind me of the place and the time and the person. A stolen moment from the past, brought to bear on the now. Memories are funny things. Items of curiosity, they are also fickle in their own way. The things they bring to mind and the ones they don’t. The load of emotions from the past that rush the field and overwhelm. Good or ill, fun or fear. The memories bring it all with them. I have watched as people remember and tell of things they had wished to be not remembered at all. Others have told of the times that they are so grateful to have the opportunity to tell now and do so with tears. Stolen moments of history.
You have known this as well. The times with your aged relative recounting the stories of their past, with a glint in their eyes. The crazy aunt with her new lover, that you had only heard rumors of until now. Now that it was ‘safe’ to tell the tale. Stolen moments of laughter and tears of joys told. The pain of sorrows remembered and the tears of loss and crushed hopes. We all have them. They are looking for a place to be set free. To be spoken aloud and to then watch as they lift on the breeze and swirl with the capricious eddies of the wind. Going where they may go.
I have been the recipient of these gifts and it is a humbling thing. They come back to me as I drive, and I am humbled again. A stolen moment of time and the bit of another one that tells of their history, even if it is current. I think of the ones that work at a funeral home and the need of the grieving to unpack so many stories. The need of the recipients to tell of their box being full and the sorrows of the hard ones that they are confronted with. One told me about the time they had to do the funeral of a young girl with a tragic end. The problem was compounded by the fact that he knew her, as she was a classmate of his own daughter. “That one took a long walk on a lonesome road…”, you can only imagine… you can never really know… but the story wanted out. Now it is in my head, this memory of his face, the tremble in his voice. He told of the wrestling with a god that allows such things, and the limp from that match. The limp he still walks with… It is not mine to fix, only to listen.
Stolen moments of a time past. Repackaged by the telling and placed again gently on the shelf of the memory. Ready for another time. For another listener, that will be gentle with the story told. I have done this poorly, and that is my own tale. Times of rough handling and of not paying attention. Times that I have wondered ignorantly across another’s tender flowers of the garden of their lives. Like a small child chasing an errant ball into that garden, I ran with abandon and purpose for one thing only, my item that had done the damage. Seldom or much later will it come to mind of what I have done, and what should have taken place instead. Clumsy and oafish, oblivious to the needs of another that presented them with hope, I trample the thing of beauty and run off to my game. Perhaps the moment was stolen, and they will try again. Perhaps only with another.
Be gentle with your fellow companions, you know not what they are dealing with. Some are interested in your story, but you are reserved. So it goes. Some are ready to tell, if only you would take a moment. Take the time. It is only a moment.
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