Imagine you’re at home and someone knocks on your front door. You open the door and greet a dapper gentleman in a suit, sporting a thin mustache and slicked-back hair. He looks like someone from the early 1900s.
Not a word is spoken. The fellow tilts his head to the right, inviting you outside. His face is kind. Curious, you follow.
The gentleman raises his hand up as if to seemingly rest it against the scenery of your street. Except when he does this, he opens an invisible door. Beyond it, you see people celebrating at a wedding. They are dressed like the gentleman, in clothing from the past.
You follow him and step through this doorway in time. You become a guest amongst the wedding reception participants. There are children, people dancing, family laughing, and a robust priest smiling as he enjoys the feast.
The wedding cake is cut and there is applause. You spy a photographer with an old style camera and flash. He is about to take a picture of the bride and groom. You glance over at them, and it hits you.
They are your parents.
More emotionally susceptible
Today I had the misfortune of coming down with a bad virus. The full-service kind, complete with fever, sore throat, aches, and general misery.
Illness forces you to hunker down at home for a while. Restricted from the usual rhythms of life, you don’t have much to do but read or watch television. I tried to do some painting and writing but didn’t have the energy.
Whenever I get sick, I become more emotionally susceptible to poignant books, movies, videos, and music. Maybe getting sick is our body’s way of taking time out from everyday life, so that we can slow down and revisit the past. Conjure old memories and feelings long dormant.
So there I was, ensconced on the couch watching television when a commercial for FedEx came on. Most commercials I ignore, but this one was creative and touching. In fact, it was the very scene I described in the opening of this article.
The commercial is titled “Memories.” Take a moment to watch it below.
A silent guest
I’m not sure how I would respond if some mystical gentleman opened a portal to the past for me, and I found myself at my parent’s wedding.
Perhaps I would share with them our future vacations in Carmel, California, where we had picnics on the beach and watched the surf together.
Or maybe I would warn Dad about his heart attack, and the distance that he and Mom would sometimes share in later years.
Most likely, I wouldn’t say a word. I’d remain as a silent guest, taking in all the splendor and joy of the moment. The past is always there for us to visit, but visiting the past to alter the future surely violates some cosmic rule.
The call of our ancestors
You can only watch so much television when you’re sick at home. I tried to paint in my art studio for a while, but I didn’t have the energy. I ended up reading the newspaper and came across an interesting story buried on the third page.
It was about a World War II veteran named Frank Manchel, who was on an all-expenses-paid weekend trip for veterans to Washington D.C. Manchel was on the Honor Flight back home to San Diego.
Manchel was laughing, chatting and having a good time. And then, about an hour before landing, he collapsed. Doctors on the flight (including his son) unsuccessfully tried to revive him.
Perhaps our ancestors know when to call us home. Maybe Mancel’s last visit to Washington D.C. and all those memories of his fallen buddies sparked some kind of unraveling in his soul. A sort of release, allowing him to pass over the veil.
I can envision family, friends, and soldiers long gone greeting Mancel with open arms after he passed.
There’s a beautiful Garth Brooks song titled The Dance. All this reflection put me in a somber mood, and I decided to play the song.
It’s about the importance of living out our lives. There will be good and bad, but to miss out on the experience would be the greatest injustice.
The following lyrics from The Dance sum it up perfectly:
Yes my life is better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d have had to miss the dance
Roses in our winter
What do a FedEx commercial, dying World War II veteran, and Garth Brooks’s “The Dance,” all mean?
That life is meant to be lived in full. The good, the bad, and everything in between. We must not remain haunted by regrets, seize each day, remember to savor those sweet times gone by and embrace our memories.
Author and columnist George Will once wrote that “Memories are roses in our winter.” My 85-year-old mother can attest to that. She often reminisces, recalling vivid memories of the past. We smile and laugh as we talk about the good old days.
It’s amazing to me that all this reflection was spawned by one sick day at home and a silly FedEx commercial. But as noted above, perhaps that’s why we get sick sometimes. To force us to slow down, shut out the world, revisit some memories and reflect on life.
My sick day, ironically, made me feel better. It allowed me to reflect and focus on the important things in life, rather than all the other noise that gets in the way.
I don’t recommend getting sick, but if you do, use the time for some gentle reflection and reminiscence. It’ll clear your mind, and make you feel better.
All of our dances will end someday, and wasn’t it Socrates who wrote that the unexamined life is not worth living?
Before you go
I’m John P. Weiss. I paint landscapes, draw cartoons and write about life. Thanks for reading.
Previously published on “Personal Growth”, a Medium publication.
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Illustrations by John P. Weiss