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Memories of A Life Not Lived
June 14 2009

Did you ever discover something…a song, a smell, a sight…that reminded you of a time from long ago and far away?

Tonight I dug through a box of old CD’s and found this one: “The Soul Cages” by Sting.

“Oh cool! I haven’t heard this in years,” I whispered to myself.

So I promptly placed it in the CD player and went about my evening of making popcorn and tea and shopping on Ebay. The moment the first song came on, a strong sensation of nostalgia swept over me. The song is called, “Island of Souls.”

I felt faint, and stumbled to my chair. My head filled with so many feelings and images from the past. I couldn’t put my finger on what they were or what period of my life they were from, but I had a sense of joy and peace while listening to the sounds of the music.

As I sat there sipping tea, I closed my eyes and forced the memories to come forward. It was 9 years ago, before the storm that ripped my life apart. I was in Greenville, Texas at our house out in the country. I was sitting in my living room beside the stone fireplace. It was a lovely day in springtime and I gazed out the window beside my chair toward the pond out back. The grass was a brilliant green that only comes around during the spring.

“The water lilies will bloom soon,” I told my cat, Seven.

She barely moved from her position in the middle of the floor. She was stretched out on the soft carpet lying next to my dog, Kate. They had both found a patch of warm sunlight that was shining through the French doors and that’s where they were taking their morning nap.

That same song was playing. Sting was singing about his father working in the ship yards, dreaming of a better life for his family. I was piddling around the house, doing some spring cleaning. The windows and doors were all open to let the fresh air into the house. It was quiet except for a few robins in the pear tree off the porch.

There was a pot of chicken and dumplings cooking on the stove and I was starting to get hungry. My husband, Richard, would be home from work early and I still wanted to bake a chocolate cake for dinner that night.

“Island of Souls” finished playing and the next song came on and it jarred me back to my reality. My eyes searched the living room of my small apartment in North Dallas. So much had happened in my life in the past 9 years that it was hardly recognizable as my life anymore. I knew from past experience that I shouldn’t dwell on those thoughts very long.

I knew from past experience where it would lead. I would begin to cry and ask God why he had allowed those awful things to happen to me and my family. I would become angry and then depressed as I recalled the sordid details.

Better if I simply tried to focus on that lovely day in Springtime. Kate and Seven were sleeping on the soft carpet. I was drinking tea and listening to my CD’s. There was a fragrant breeze coming through the window from the apple tree. It was full of white blossoms and we were looking forward to those delicious apples that would grow there this year. We’d make apple pies and cobbler and even homemade apple jam.

I had to go to the kitchen and stir the dumplings and refill my tea glass. Then off to the laundry room to move wet clothes into the dryer. I had a wonderful husband who loved me and a sweet family. They were my whole life and I praised God each and every day for the precious life he had given me.

“Such happiness should be reserved for the really special people,” I whispered to myself in the laundry room.

I could hear Richard’s Toyota pulling into the garage. He’d be clamoring through the back door within moments. The first thing he would do is give me a big hug and ask me how my day had gone. Then I’d make him a glass of tea and he would tell me all about his day at work.

It was an ordinary life but it was all I’d ever really wanted. Just to be loved and accepted for who I was. Just to have children around me laughing and playing, people to cook for and love and pray for.

It was an ordinary life but it was like a divine dream that I never wanted to wake up from. But one day the dream turned into a horrible nightmare. And when I woke up from it, I found myself alone in a small apartment in North Dallas. There was no loving husband. There were no laughing children.

I still had Seven and a few ‘things’…furniture and paintings, my Grandmother’s buffet, that stereo…but that was about all there was left of my once-perfect life. I still had the Sting CD but the music was gone from my life. It left and took the people I loved and no matter how many times I went over all the events that had led me here, there was never any changing them.

If I had a Time Machine, I wouldn’t go to the 1800’s to see how cowboys lived. I wouldn’t go to Egypt to catch a glimpse of Cleopatra. I wouldn’t go to ancient Rome on a chariot ride.

I would go back to that lovely day 9 years ago when a former version of myself lived the most perfect and lovely life anyone had ever lived in the history of time. Richard would be in the living room watching football and I would be in the kitchen making tacos. The house was filled with the smell of onions and hamburger frying in a skillet.

Kate was outside barking wilding and chasing birds from her yard.

“Honey, bring me a beer, okay?” Richard yelled from the living room.

“Sure, no problem. Lemme stir this hamburger and I’ll come sit down and watch the game with you while it cooks.”

The day would end with us sitting on the back porch drinking coffee and eating chocolate cake watching streaks of orange and blue filled the western sky.

“Boy! These spring evenings are great, aren’t they?” Richard says.

I reach across the table and squeeze his hand. “They’re amazing, honey.”

We both sigh, then sit back in our chairs and drink in the cool, peaceful country air.

“We should plant a few more tomatoes this weekend,” Richard says over the sound of crickets.

“It’s kind of late for planting, but I guess we’d be certain to have tomatoes all the way into fall,” I answer back.

“Tomatoes into the fall would be nice,” Richard answers back. And his words drift away into the cool night air. A solemn stillness fills our evening, moments when words would only clutter the pristine silence.

If I had a Time Machine, I’d play that day over and over for all of eternity and time would never move forward and bring me here to this most lonely time of my life. An era of regret, too many moments void of joy. Mornings filled with deadening silence. Evenings where salty tears fall from eyes fixed in a blank stare. Nights that find me staring at the ceiling, asking God if things will always be this way and why.

“Why, God? If I could understand, then maybe I could let them go and move forward.”

“Let them go, child,” God answers back. “The future won’t be so bad.”

“But how can I let them go? They meant everything to me. What reason is left for me to go on? I can’t live without them. I need their love in order to exist.”

“This is the way of life, child. There are some things that even I cannot fix or change. After all, I gave you humans free will. You can choose.”

I accept his words because I must and there’s no other choice. Finally, I close my eyes and drift off into another dream where my perfect life has miraculously returned and my husband is snuggled up against me and the world is once again safe and filled with love.
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Comments from Our Readers

  "is identical to a fireplace in the house i lived in in bakersfield, right down to the color of the walls on both sides of it ,, the color of the brick, the mantle color,, ,, great stroy " - jesse_jean57, June 25 2009 - reply

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