I needed luggage. Specifically, I needed matching luggage. At 53, I’d never owned a complete set of coordinated baggage. I figured it was time.
I was at the local thrift store one day, and I saw a beautiful, brand new, four-piece luggage set. The color of the suitcases was black and beige; I would later learn that the pattern was called “English Garden.” The manufacturer was American Tourister. “You can’t go wrong with that,” I thought. And to top it off, it was priced to sell — $100.00 for the whole set.
I immediately asked to see the bags. The cases were behind the counter where they kept the more valuable items. A clerk handed me the large suitcase which contained the three other bags. “Wow,” I thought. “The tags are still on it.” The luggage had come from Kohl’s Department Store and was priced at $249.99.
It was a no-brainer. This was my new luggage.
Since I’m a careful thrift shopper, I wanted to check to see if all the zippers worked properly. At the thrift store, even though an item was “new,” it could still have defects. So I placed the big bag on the showcase counter and opened it up. Zipper one seemed to work fine. I opened up bag two. That zipper also worked. Inside bag two, was a cute overnight tote. Its zipper worked. And inside the tote, was a small make-up bag. Zipper worked fine.
I loved the inside of the suitcases; they were lined with bright purple satin material. In a word, the bags were perfect.
But then, I noticed something. There were papers in the pocket of the biggest bag. Curious, I pulled the papers out and inspected them. The first paper was a medication list scrawled in the handwriting of an elderly person. And the person took a lot of drugs. The second bunch of papers was a notarized living will.
It dawned on me that the person who had started to pack this bag was a very careful individual. I read between the lines; he had included the medication list and the living will just in case he ran into medical problems on his upcoming trip.
I am calling the would-be traveler a he, but the traveler could have been a woman. I just had the hunch that the suitcases had belonged to a man. Maybe it was something about the handwriting. In fact, I’d given him a name. At first, I called him John Doe. Then, I named him Mr. X. Finally, I arrived on Peter Smith. Don’t ask me why.
Since I’d found personal items in the internal pocket of one of the suitcases, I decided to search all the bags to see if Peter Smith had packed anything else. There were two more things.
In the outer pocket of the largest bag, Peter had carefully folded a blue, plastic raincoat and placed it into a Ziploc bag. Peter had planned for every contingency. The final thing I found was in the pocket of the tote bag. In this, he’d placed a tiny, needlepoint cross.
Yes, he’d thought of everything.
I kept reading between the lines. But for some reason, I imagined, he’d never taken the trip he’d been planning. I deduced this because the tags were still on the luggage. Certainly, such a fastidious man would have removed the tags before he took his journey.
And then, it dawned on me. Peter Smith had died before he could take the trip of a lifetime. His devastated family had decided to donate the beautiful luggage to the thrift store. And they hadn’t known of its highly personal contents.
Now, I definitely knew that I was going to purchase the suitcases. They came with a story, a history, a legacy. At that point, I understood it was my obligation to use Peter’s luggage in good health and make the journey for him, to take a trip he never got to take.
Peter Smith had waited too long. I postulated that he had been careful all his life, too careful. I surmised that Peter didn’t like to take risks. He’d wanted to take a trip abroad for decades, but he’d never gotten up the nerve. Finally, in his elderly years, he’d said yes to the risk. He’d decided to go “come hell or high water.”
But he was too late.
Good mental health means taking risks before it’s too late.
We can all learn a lesson from Peter Smith.
Take those risks. Have a baby. Marry the person you love. Go back to college. Begin a new career.
Take a trip.
Life is short.
Take a chance while you can.
Suitcase photo available from Shutterstock