This short story is dedicated to my mother, who is a true example of what it looks like to choose joy in every thread of life.
It was a quiet, summer day – one of the kind where Samuel found himself standing under the porch of his home staring out at the world around him – at trees and grass and flowers, and the quiet streets and sidewalks that led the universal roads straight to his childhood home. Yet this place was more than just his childhood home. It was his life home. It was the only home he could remember. To think of home was to think of this place.
For a brief moment Samuel’s eyes caught the clear, blue sky and the many trees that thrust their numerous hands and fingers into that sky, and then his eyes moved toward a portion of sidewalk, which, as ordinary as all the others, traversed its way through grass on either side. He remembered how as a boy he would look out from his bedroom window on the second floor at the sidewalk, at an older version of himself. He sometimes imagined himself as this man looking back at the boy in the window, and before tearfully waving goodbye, saying to enjoy the present and not be caught wasting life away with wishes about the future.
Now, as Samuel looked, he didn’t take the role of either the boy or the man, but instead of an observer standing by and watching them both in their silent, timeless communication. Part of Samuel felt very much as he knew the boy felt – safe in the comforts of home, and anxious at the life that lay before him. Another part of him felt like that older version of himself looking back. Where others might see only a man looking at his house, Samuel instead saw a man looking at memories long gone.
His home was like a history book, and he couldn’t look at it without memories knocking at the door of his mind – memories of a life passing by, memories of his parents and siblings, of family and friends, memories of laughter and tears, memories of his younger self staring at the man on the side walk that he was becoming. It was as though the memories were a thorn in his eye that he could not help but notice every time he looked homeward, and at times even everywhere he looked.
Though some memories were painful to recall, Samuel could think only of how beautiful a picture they all made of his life. At times he wished in vain to revisit some of them and stop them at the most glamorous of moments. And yet, he thought, is it not the brevity of each moment that drives the world to seek that greater weight of glory?
Samuel shut his eyes, and in that world of neither being the boy or the man, he thought that all this life had ever given him is a life he’d be grateful and honored to live again. He did not think this because he had a perfect life free of pain, but because he was, at this moment, deeply thankful for the gift of life. A man gone blind, he reasoned, although at times consumed with longing for the sight he once had, is surely grateful still and, perhaps all the more, to be alive and for his other senses.
Samuel teared up as he remembered, not because he couldn’t go back, but because he came to realize more beauty than he had ever seen before. Why is it, he wondered, that years later, the past in its entirety of joy and sorrow, health and sickness, tends to look so perfect and beautiful? It must be, he concluded, all the threads tied together – threads of life so sweetly woven.
He then wondered about the future of his life, and all the threads yet to be tied. As he thought about his life from beginning to end, it was a restful thought to realize he didn’t have to worry about which thread went where, since, instead, it was of utmost importance to live as though every moment was a thread.
“No matter how long I’m gone, I’ll always miss this place,” Samuel thought, his eyes watering with tears. “And the longer I stay, the more painful it is to leave.”
Samuel’s mother soon joined him on the porch and stood beside him, taking in the beauty of the day. As his mother’s eyes looked up towards the heavens, Samuel turned to look at her. Respect for her and tears rushed to fill an emptiness that had suddenly begun to swallow him. Things were different now than they had been before. The familiar world of his childhood looked so much older now, because for some time he had not been present to see it change. He realized that it is the day’s change that takes a special eye to notice, as the years’ change lashed his heart like a blizzard wind, informed him of a past glory that he’d been too busy or impatient to notice, and sounded a chime in his soul to remind him that time is rushing towards completion.
His mother’s gaze met his, and sensing his grief about his nearing departure, she wrapped her arms around him.
“Son, I love you so much,” she whispered.
“I love you, too, Mom. I just wish that when I was younger I hadn’t wished to grow up so fast. It always felt far away, but now that it’s here . . . .” Samuel couldn’t find the words to say, and he had started a good cry by now.
As the scorching heat of summer makes one long for winter’s first snow, so youthful passion had made Samuel yearn for the future of his life to come soon, as though it would usher in some kind of earthly paradise that the present surely couldn’t offer. Yet, as his parting was nigh, he began to fondly remember all that was past, as the cold of winter makes one long for that heat of summer or think of a warm, sunny day under an umbrella on a beach.
“Change with the seasons, Samuel,” she spoke sweetly. “Let the past you know drive you to choose joy right now, and in every moment yet to come.”
“I will,” Samuel said, as he took in the weight of his mother’s words, considering that too many are drawn into a rhythm of life that tempts them to believe that true joy is found only in future acquisitions or accomplishments, only to be rudely awakened to find their past robbed of all the daily joys granted by that greater weight of glory.
Samuel put an arm around his mother.
“Another cup of coffee?” He asked, smiling.
“Yes, please,” she said, and kissed him softly on the cheek.