If I Could Change a Single Moment of the Past

clockIf I could change a single moment of the past, it wouldn’t be a moment of my life. The traumas and failures in my life have never been the result of a single moment but of life’s unfolding drama or mistaken assessments on my part. The single moments that did have an impact didn’t change my life, just gave me a few uncomfortable weeks or months, so it’s not worth the trouble to go back and redo those moments and put up with any ripples and upheavals that might result from such changes.

I would instead bestow this power to change a single moment on another, someone I’ve only talked to a few time, someone whose name I don’t even know.

At a local employee-owned grocery chain, I occasionally see an employee sitting by the door, giving us customers a friendly good-bye as we leave. Generally, these “sitters” are workers who have been injured and can’t stand all day, so this is a way of giving them a rest on the clock.

One such woman is radiantly beautiful, looking to be about twenty when in fact she is in her forties. A couple of years ago, her boss needed someone to move a heavy object, and since no one else was available, she volunteered. In that moment her life changed from one of a vibrant health to one of chronic back pain and doctors who can’t agree on treatment.

The last time I saw her, I didn’t stop to talk, merely said in passing, “I was hoping I’d never see you again.” Those words echoed in my mind as I crossed the parking lot, and I was appalled by what I had said. I meant, of course, I was hoping I wouldn’t see her at her post and that she finally was through with her ordeal. I might have let the remark go, but she is of a different race than I am, and I was afraid she’d take it as a racial slur if not a personal insult. So I went back to the store, but she and her chair were gone.

Yesterday I saw her again and finally got a chance to apologize. She said she knew what I meant and hadn’t taken offense. We talked for a while, and she mentioned that her grandmother’s funeral had been packed to overflowing. The woman had been active in the civil rights movement in Mississippi, was loved by all who met her, and since she lived to be 106, she had plenty of opportunity to meet people.

If the grandmother is anything like the woman I met, it’s no wonder she was so beloved. This woman’s smile is enough to brighten anyone’s day, even mine when I was in the worst phases of my grief. Although she is very sweet and kind, and not at all bitter, she is always aware that one single moment changed her life forever, and if it were ever possible, she’d go back and change it.

It is that moment of change that I would gift her with if I could.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+