I turned over in comfort of our warm bed. There was unusual early morning brightness when I tugged up my east window shade. I stretched and put the one above my head up as well and saw the full moon hanging high above the shop roof. It was strangely luminous in the beginning light of the approaching dawn.
It was freezing cold. So cold that I had called DART and cancelled Blind Cecilia’s ride to Easter seals. It was just too cold for anyone to be out unless it was an emergency. That meant that I didn’t need to get up nearly as early on this Monday morning. Certain Man and I had caught the Lunar Eclipse the night before and bedtime had been after its 12:12a peak. The wind was whipping through the trees and around the corners of our bedroom with a wild savagery and it was so nice to just burrow in.
But then my ears caught the sound of something breaking. It sounded significant. Certain Man was already up, and I figured he was able to handle anything that happened, but this sound so impressive that I got out of bed and went to the top of the stairs to see if anything of importance could be seen or discerned. All was quiet, so I did a quick morning brush up to our bedroom, grabbed my clothes and went down stairs. I was totally unprepared for what greeted me there.
My beloved husband was kneeling in front of our hearth, and before him on the rug was a heap of rubble. Wood and ceramic and glass in an impressive jumble. He had a trash can and was methodically picking it up.
“What in the world is that?” I asked, my heart in my throat.
“A clock,” he said, in a voice that sounded strange.
“What happened? Which one? Oh, Daniel!”
“The joints gave way, I guess,” he said.
“What do you mean?” I asked. “What joints? Did you fall?”
“No, no. Not my joints. The clock’s joints.” All the while he was picking up the pieces. “It’s one of the heavy clocks. One of the marble ones.”
“Oh, no,” I said. “Was it one of the family ones – the one from your Mom’s family?” I held my breath because that particular clock is among his favorites.
“No,” he said, a bit ruefully. “But it was the first one I got. The one that Donnie Murphy gave me way back when I first started getting interested. I was putting it back on the mantel and I was holding it by the sides, turning it around to set it on the side where it usually sits, and suddenly it all dropped off, leaving me with just the top of it in my hands. I’ve never seen anything be so completely destroyed! Everything is in pieces!”
When we decorate for Christmas, we clear the mantel of everything so that we can put our favorite large manger scene there. It takes up the whole mantel, and is worthy of the space. But when we took down the manger scene last week, the spot remained bare for the ensuing days while we moved Middle Daughter to her new home, Ambleside Cottage. She was finally officially moved on Saturday, and then yesterday we had church and lunch guests and the day was gone before we got anything else done. I guess that this morning seemed like a good time for him to start returning his beloved clocks to their usual spots.
This clock has been one of his more dependable clocks, keeping time and chime with almost no maintenance. I remember when Donnie realized that Daniel was interested in old, wind up clocks and had brought it to him from his own collection. I recalled how hard Donnie had worked on it to make it beautiful, fashioning missing pieces to replicate corresponding parts when he couldn’t find the exact fit from other clocks. He carefully painted them to match, and a casual observer would not have even thought about it. I remember his half bashful smile at Daniel’s delight in this antique timekeeper, given so generously by a neighbor who was a friend. There was a sick feeling in my stomach as I looked at the dwindling pile of jumbled clock pieces.
“We are going to need to get the sweeper,” Certain Man said, jolting me back to the present, and I went to fetch our trusty Electrolux. I swept up the small parts scattered on the rug and felt like crying. Certain Man took his trash can out to the dumpster and came back in carrying the empty container and put it back where it belonged.
“It is just a clock,” he said, a bit sadly.
“Yes,” I said. “It is just a clock, but it’s been such a good clock, and we have so many good memories associated with it. I feel really sad . . . ” I paused a bit, then went on. “I feel really sad, but I do feel glad about one thing –”
“That it was me and not you?” put in Certain Man, a little too quickly. He wasn’t laughing.
“Yes,” I admitted. “I feel really sad that it happened, but I’m so glad that it wasn’t me or anyone else responsible. Was there nothing at all that you could salvage?”
“It’s in so many pieces,” he said.
“What about the works?” I persisted. “Could there be any parts that John could use?” (This would be John Murray – his clock repairman of It’s About Time clock repair)
“Oh, I kept the works, including the pendulum,” he said. “I might be able to build something to house it, or we can maybe find a housing for them.”
And that was pretty much the end of our conversation about the clock. He fetched two other clocks to put on the mantel and I rehung a big picture that has been languishing in the study since early December. There are plenty of things to occupy my hands on this cold January day but to tell the truth, I’ve been languishing a bit myself.
And all day I’ve been thinking about that noise I heard. The sound of something breaking. I’ve thought about how when we hear something breaking, it stops everything until we find out what it is. Think about hearing something splintering into an irreparable mess in the grocery store several aisles over. Or the noise of a glass shattering in a restaurant, or the noise of something calamitous in the kitchen of the same restaurant. Several weeks ago, in my very own kitchen, there was the sound of a great breakage when a stack of serving bowls slid off the second shelf. The noise was impressive, and five of my big bowls were suddenly gone. The sound of something breaking is unmistakable.
But not always.
The sound of a heart breaking is not something that can be heard with our fickle, selfish, over stimulated ears that are so full of the noise of this world. And even if we could, would we want to be bothered?
This I pray for myself, and for the rest of us who believe:
“May God give us the ability to hear with our hearts. May the sound of a heart breaking be as attention getting as a the smashing of a crystal bowl on a tile floor. May we mourn the pieces of the shattered heart even as we are motivated to pick them up and bind them up and comfort the wounded. May the good, good memories remind us that every heart is worth saving, and that the Healer of Broken Hearts has a plan for the pieces.
And may we never give up on anyone’s brokenness.
Not even our own.