Fragments of Joy
He was staring out the window of the room that they had moved him to. The small box of his possessions sat on a table by his chair. On the top was a book. Protruding from the pages was a bookmark where he must have stopped reading. Right hand reaching, he pulled out the bookmark and noted that it was a train ticket stub from a long-ago trip. A trip that had been taken when he was strong and free to the world.
Human memory is a magical thing. It recalls the past with an ability to maximize the good and minimize the pain. What seemed ordinary on that long-ago day when it occurred, becomes magic in the hands of that beautiful sorceress — memory. All around us we leave snapshots in time. Moments of joy, hope, moments of the ordinary that only reveal their meaning when time unmasks them. “One day we shall know all and close our books,” he said to himself, “then it will be for others to try to write theirs.” Who knew what this meant, certainly he did not. Who knew what any of it meant he thought. What he did know was that the ticket stub unmasked the magic of a long-ago memory, a morning that dawned clear and cool. A taxi to the station. A trip to a new and unexplored magical city. The pain of the trip was no longer, it had been removed by that magic. He remembered only peace, hope, and a moment of joy.
Why was the ticket stub in this book? As he thumbed through the pages he realized that it was exactly where he had left the marker those twenty-plus years earlier. Exactly where he had stopped reading when he shut the book to get off the train. Rushing into his mind were all the beauty and pain that had been tattooed into his soul from that day to this. The joy and sorrow, the gain and loss, and the beauty of having known friends in dark times.
He was at peace, here in his room. He was rich with his small box of possessions. Wealth is what we have in our soul, nothing more. And his soul felt wealthy despite all that others would claim he had lost. He was amused by their pity. They really failed to understand that what he had lost was not what he wanted to have. He had his wealth right here in the memories in his soul. This small box, this book, this yellowed ticket stub, were all the gold he needed today.
The sunlight had beamed through the station window that long-ago day, reflecting off her hair. Her businesslike demeanor reluctantly gave way to a smile when she saw him getting off the train. For those who measure success in a job or bank account, the idea of wealth being seeing someone’s smile, simply because you have arrived, is not comprehensible. His soul would always be rich because his memory could not be taken. The fact that the smile that day seemed reluctant made it of even more value now. Reluctant smiles are the most honest…