An overview of the time continuum of ALS
“But if I had the
Chance to start all over again
I would like today
On a four-leaf clover …
If I could go back
The hands of time.
Rhythm and blues artist Tyrone Davis’ single “Turn Back the Hands of Time” was a fundamental part when I first started collecting musical recordings. Like many pieces, it is subject to spontaneous memory retrieval in response to a trigger for the flow of consciousness. This was the case shortly after the announcement of my diagnosis of ALS.
For more than a century, people have reported seeing their lives pass them by during times of extreme stress, especially near-death situations. After receiving my death sentence for ALS, I experienced a similar phenomenon. However, in my case, the sudden and rapid explosion of autobiographical content was quickly followed by repeated, much slower reruns of thumbnails. Each episode rerun begged for scrutiny to “turn back the clock.”
Perhaps the prospect of a truncated lifespan sparked a desire for retrospective validation of the “goodness” of my previous life. And a quick glance confirmed that premise. But seen from a more critical perspective, the reflection of the mirror has definitely been spoiled.
Upon close inspection, my past has unfolded in a series of sub-optimal, if not inappropriate, behaviors. Turns out, the procession of DeLorean “Back to the Future” time machines needed to mend all the potholes and sinkholes in my life before ALS should be immense.
Intertwined in my quilt of errors were countless relationship gaps. Far too many times have I missed the mark as a son, grandson, sibling, friend, student, teammate, cousin, nephew, employee, peer, manager, husband, stepfather and stepfather. This grim reality hit me hard.
Additionally, I had violated many – all, if sinful thought is taken into account – of the commandments of God. I had trampled underfoot the evangelical imperative to love my neighbor, that is to say everyone, as myself. Any legacy I could leave behind was likely to be a warning about how not to live.
I was drowning in a sea of remorse. Something that hopefully started out as a wellness exercise left me in a state of melancholy sleeplessness.
On her deathbed, my mother told my father that she had no regrets. I found myself pondering this statement. My mother was a wonderful woman, but no regrets? In light of my haunting journey into the past, I found this notion absurd.
Then it hit me. My mother had led an imperfect life. But she kept a faith that promised forgiveness. In this context, what did she have to regret?
At that point, I realized the same applies to me. My contrition for past transgressions was appropriate. But like my mother, I have been mercifully forgiven. In turn, I could forgive myself. It was cathartic and cleansing. I could sleep again.
Fast forward to my brother’s recent visit. During our time together, we decided to browse a box of old photos. The collection had not been opened since before my diagnosis of ALS. Thus, the images would certainly contain glimpses of the story I had mulled over years before.
Indeed, they did. Without any effort, the images captured brought me back to many of the times that had worried me, before my mother’s posthumous wisdom intervened.
They also prepared an unexpected welcome surprise. Many of them reflected joy, mirth, and contentment on the faces of those gathered. The affection and companionship was evident. The photos showed that, despite my admittedly imperfect participation, I was a part of something special. It was a perfect, invigorating juxtaposition with my previous angst.
Suddenly Davis’s words burst out of my mind again. “If I could go back in time, I would only change two things:
- I would be a better Christian if I loved everyone more selflessly.
- I would take more pictures.
Going forward, I pledge to do both. After all, I have time.
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