Where we were in the living room,
Relaxing on easy-sitting furniture.
Fresh-brewed coffee and a bouquet of late fall flowers on the coffee table.
The sun beginning to set in soft shades of red and orange.
The movie already in the VCR and my hand on the remote, I couldn’t wait for the evening ahead with what I assumed to be an upbeat romantic comedy-“Message in a Bottle.”
It would be just the uplift my soul needed in the middle of an incredibly busy week. I had read no reviews so everything about the movie would be a surprise.
The story began innocently with a message in a bottle, found on the beach by a successful young newspaperwoman. And went on to tell how Theresa (Robin Wright Penn) would fall in love with the writer of the message and then seek to find him.
The man she found-Garret, played by Kevin Kostner-was in love with the ocean and with his deceased wife Catherine.
Theresa found him on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, building a majestic sailboat named Catherine. Garret belonged to the ocean. He and his people and Catherine’s people had been there for generations.
Garret understood the ocean. Both its healing and treachery. Its beautiful side and its angry side. And he trusted the waters with the most important thing in his life-messages to his beloved Catherine.
The movie is beautifully done and you can’t help being drawn into the drama of the romance about to happen. Until Catherine comes between them, that is.
Consumed by grief, Garret simply can’t let go of the past. Catherine’s studio and her half-finished canvasses matter more to him than anything or anyone in the present. His grief is so poignant that it tears him apart and creates tragedy in his own life and the lives of the people he should care about.
Message in a Bottle” has been flippantly described by one critic as “a three-hankie extravaganza” and by another as “a four-hankie.” And maybe the critics are right.
But on the other hand, it’s hard to be cynical and flippant about a story that so poignantly demonstrates the heartbreaking fragility of life. For the truth is, there’s a little bit of grief-stricken Garret in each of us.
Years ago, I heard Katherine Hepburn in a television interview poignantly lament, “We have such losses in our lives!”
And that’s the way it is, especially this side of 60.
Think of your own losses. Your mother or grandmother. Your father or favorite uncle. A child. A sibling. A spouse. A best friend. A special pet that stayed with you when everyone else was gone.
Life is filled with losses. The potential for grief is unlimited. And the easiest thing in the world is to give in to that grief. But it doesn’t work present and the future.
Paul Newman, who played Garret’s salty old seaman father, understood it best. “You choose,” said Newman in a dramatic confrontation with his son, “the past or the future. Pick one and stick with it.”
So how about you? Have you been able to choose the future and stick with it? If not, why not change your direction now. Life is simply too short to be lived in the past. Meaning and joy must always be created in the present and the future.

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