Life Lessons from Mr. Magorium: Death & Change

There’s quite a few lines from the movie Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium that have stuck with me over the years. If you haven’t seen the film, I highly recommend it. The script doesn’t blanch at the realities of change and death. The characters frequently toss out clever lines and understand what it means to laugh and to struggle. It’s a simple plot, one that revolves around a magical toy store, but it’s powerful. I think I like the simple, magical stories the best.

One of the more poignant lines, one that is towards the end of the film, goes like this:

Molly: Are you dying?

Mr. Magorium: Light bulbs die, my sweet. I will depart.

I have been around a lot of death lately, or death has been around me–as it does all of us. Both neighbors to the side of my childhood home have died within the past few years. Their houses are vacant or nearly and look miserable. One neighbor couldn’t afford her medications and passed away. At the other house, piles of debris–pieces of the family’s prior life–are being thrown out in batches. The father, mother and son have all died, one by one, over the years. One daughter is still alive but is also terminally ill. The neighbor behind us? The mother died a year ago to cancer.

It’s both sad and oddly fascinating to see someone’s life possessions piled up unceremoniously in the rain. Things like kitchen chairs and rugs, where people used to sit and talk, now lay next to crumbling curbs. At a friend’s funeral, I saw sports memorabilia of his, brought by his mother. At my work, change and death are also happening. A head administrator died unexpectedly; many others are retiring and a few are being promoted. Recently, I discovered the building where I attended preschool is being demolished. And being put in its place? A fire station.

Mr. Magorium: Your life is an occasion. Rise to it.

I don’t pretend to make light of death. Jesus cried over Lazarus’ death, giving way to the famous Bible verse: “Jesus wept.” Thus the Son of God understands just exactly how much death hurts and stings. Death wasn’t supposed to happen; in Christianity, it wasn’t part of the original plan.

But back to the rainy curbs and soon to be fire stations. I sit (figuratively) on that dirty curb and I think about all of this. About how life is transient, how I know many others who are struggling with chronic illnesses and personal tragedies. I read the New York Times and see headlines of the Catholic Church struggling to find any hope in all the numerous scandals finally coming to light. I read stories about children and adults who were abused by priests, bishops, nuns and cardinals; I read others about bodies of children being unearthed in so called “Magdalene Laundry” centers in Ireland for women and children forsaken by men and society. I see even more headlines about the person at the helm of America, driving us to the brink of war with incredibly insensitive and callous words, words spoken off the cuff with little to no forethought. It is obscene, it is ludicrous and it is sickening.

This world is not permanent for me, or for any of us. I forget about that sometimes. I get distracted by a lot of change happening at once, especially when it’s mixed with evil. All of this change has affected my work a little, mainly with finishing my book. But it’s getting there.

Stay tuned. And keep writing by the curbs.

Song: “It’s In The Rain“, Enya

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