I'm a sentimental person when it comes to "things." It might be my DNA responding to my dad's treasures, but gifts mean something. Some things are embued with the most intimate moments regarding our experiences.
This past week, Margaret Welborn died peacefully at her home after battling Parkinson's disease. A few years ago, Margaret gave me a Christmas gift that follows me everywhere. As I reflect on her life and her gesture, it provides insight into great beauty.
Jim Welborn met the nurse Margaret after a divorce from his first wife. She graduated from nursing school in 1964 and worked close to 44 years before retiring in 2008. They were married for 43 years, and when I met them, they were the best of friends, inseparable.
Jim served our country in the Air Force, working on Phantom F4 jets. He also gave me a gift of him standing by one of those back when he believed his daughter was happy. They lived together in a modest house next to a library and a community pond in Evansville, Indiana. They attended mass every week, and Margaret volunteered at the library.
That's what immediately struck me about Margaret. She was insatiably curious and deeply compassionate. Although uncertain and unsure in her walk, Margaret loved to talk about birds, books, and anything interesting that she read. She was always reading something and inquisitive.
One Christmas, Margaret presented me with a gift that would become a real treasure for me. I can't remember if it was wrapped, but when she passed it to me, I wasn't sure what to make of it.
First, it was heavy. It was a glass case with brass-mounted fish with small teeth. Inside was a combination of precision metal elements that made up the most exquisite music box. There was a metal comb flanked with 6 screws. A shiny brass cylinder with raised tags mounted to some gears and several other hinges and metal parts.
Underneath was a red plate with a brass labeled "REUGE MUSIC" and a more extensive paper labeled "REUGE, Saint - Croix and Switzerland." Embossed into the red plate, the words "Made in Switzerland" were present, and on the inner label were the title of 3 songs and their composers. Claire de Lune by Debussy, Blue Danube by Strauss, and Anniversary Song by Ivanovici.
When you turn the knob on the bottom and release at just the proper tension, you can click the small button on the left of the box, and the music suspends you for a moment. The perfection of Swiss engineering is not only a marvel - it's a profound keepsake.
Margaret shared a story with me that described how it was something she picked up on a European trip. She never was one to boast or brag about the experience, but the fact she exchanged this with me - left a part of her on this humble transaction.
I'll long remember Margaret Welborn. I may exchange the meaning you left with me. I will remember your faith, love, charity, and the curious, humble, and worshipful servant you were in this life. I was and continue to be - truly blessed.