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Holding It All Together-Vanishing Time

By Amy McCollom
Last week we visited the grave yard, reminisced about the loved-ones who were laid to rest, and honored the war-dead. Little did I know that while I was watching my son play Taps at a ceremony, my nephew had passed on, 30 miles away. We got the call later that afternoon, totally unexpected.

Little Donny was 36 years old. No one knows for sure what happened, the shock of losing him took precedence over the why and how. I never got to know him like I wanted. He never ate dinner at my house, or brought his boys over to play with my kids, or sat in my porch swing while sipping iced tea. As others told stories of how they knew him, my mind only traveled to a Christmas Eve when he was seven, and I had made him a Santa Claus pillow. He stopped by once, when I wasn’t at home, but that gave me no comfort.

As we stood there in the wet grass, sniffling weepers provided background noise for the sermon. My little girl clutched my hand tighter, then tugged on my shirt. She whispered, “Where is Little Donny?” I pointed to the silver urn that rested on a decorated table, surrounded by roses. She then whispered, “Oh, he’s like a Genie.” I walked her away from the crowd and knelt down to explain how sometimes when people die, they get baked like a cookie, then their crumbs are put in a pretty vase. “Did they add chocolate chips?” I said, yes.

Afterwards, everyone stood around and visited for a while. Relatives I hadn’t seen in years gave me hugs and introduced their children, as did I. And suddenly I realized that through death, life was brought forth like a new bud on a rose stem. Information was exchanged, and promises to keep in touch. Grudges were put aside, and the bond of blood and love grew stronger. 

My twins, growing bored, asked me if they could walk around to look at the pretty tombstones, and I said, “Just as long as you don’t step on any of the people.” Their eyes got huge and I clarified myself, “No, I mean, don’t step on any of the grave areas where the people are underground. It’s not respectful.” Relief washed over them, and they said, “Oh. That was close.”

Later at our house, relatives stopped by for a sandwich and a cupcake. It was very comforting and pleasant. Well, except for when the twins hooked naked GI Joes to the ceiling fan in their room and they shot off like bullets, hitting the walls in all directions. And when they found a nest full of baby birds that needed rescued. And when Portia discovered her glow-worm had dried up and no longer glowed, but we all had to look at it anyway.

Life isn’t perfect, now is it? But life is the most precious thing we own. Life is clicking away with each tick and tock. There are very few things that I regret doing. But there are so many things that I regret not doing. 

May we spend each day of our lives living to have no regrets. Loving and learning, sharing and giving, and getting to know those around us. If your loved one was taken away tomorrow, have you said everything you wanted to say? No one is promised a tomorrow. It’s ok if the cupcakes aren’t perfect, or you run out of ice for the tea, or if ornery kids tie action figures to ceiling fans…get together with your loved ones, and love them like never before. Rest in peace, Little Donny. And thank you for teaching us to embrace life while we have it.

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