Shelby, as you know, wouldn’t want us to get mired down and wallow in this. We should handle it the best way we know how and get on with it. That’s what my mind says, I just wish somebody would explain it to my heart. ~ M’Lynn, Steel Magnolias (by Robert Harling)
I have a collection of antique clocks displayed throughout the Fairfield House. They all work and some chime every fifteen minutes. Still time passes without much notice, stealing days, seasons, years.
There are moments of comfortable normality filled with insignificance that precede the instant your entire world is about to change. On Sunday, January 16, I was preparing my mother a cup of tea. I noticed there was a message on my cell phone.
Joseph, my only nephew, my Godson, my friend is dead.
The next morning I stumbled into my kitchen after a drug induced sleep and was greeted by the cup sitting on my counter. I held it with two hands, and stared at it’s contents for a long time. My tears rolled down my face and splashed into the dark and cold steeped tea. If I just wished hard enough I could undo the last twenty four hours, change the last twenty-nine years. I could will a different future in those tea leaves.
From the moment I learned my sister and her husband were expecting a child, I loved him. Joseph was the first born of the next generation on both sides of the family; God’s way of telling us life is good and should go on. I was there when he entered the world. I can vividly recall looking at him through the nursery window before his mother was wheeled out of recovery and thinking he’s perfect, a fresh start, a clean slate, a chance to get it right. The world belonged to him and it was full of promise and endless possibilities.
Less than a year later that promise was broken, when he had his first near death experience and was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. He was only ten months old.
I was young and naive and perhaps it was better that way because with that comes a sense of immortality, optimism, invincibility, and never-ending hope. I thought, we can beat this.
Clocks kept ticking, needles kept pricking for blood tests and insulin injections several times a day. Life continued and so did the hundreds of hospitalizations. People stepped into his world and some exited. The wild child with the uncontrollable sugar levels grew and so did his problems. A beautiful boy turned into a handsome teen who was never comfortable in his own skin or with the ebb and flow of the sugar highs and lows that consumed his daze. The teen turned into a man without notice. There were no rites of passage. He spent most of the last decade of his life dying in hospitals and in a nursing home before finally returning where he wanted to be most, where he began his journey: in his mother’s care while on the last frontier, dialysis.
I last saw Joseph Jan 2 – 3 at the Fairfield House for our delayed Christmas celebration.
We spent time conversing and looking at some of my antiques. He showed a special interest in my silver collection. We made plans to go treasure hunting and I recruited him as a personal picker. Although my sister often reminded me of his impending death, I remained his cheerleader, eager for him to exchange a painful existence for a passionate life.
When Joseph left, I ran out to the car and gave him a pair of silver candle stick holders he was admiring. His eyes lit up and he gave me a smile in return. He knew as I did, it wasn’t about the candle stick holders.
It was acknowledgment that he mattered more.
That I would give him the world if I could.
There have been many Steel Magnolia Moments in the last eight days.
I am now acutely aware of each fleeting moment as the deafening sound of each tick the hundred year old hands on my antique clocks remind me …
Time is passing.
This is the moment that matters.
The best time to say I love you…
The best time to show you love others…