Before we left the hospital she handed my two sisters and I a box. She said, “I bought each of you a necklace. “ Inside was a gold and silver pendant shaped in the form of a mother and daughter connected as a heart. In that moment, I knew what that necklace would mean to me. I have cherished that piece of jewelry more than anything else I have ever owned. I spent a few hundred dollars on a stronger gold chain to ensure its safety, and yet I still don’t wear it every day for fear of something happening to it.
A few weeks after that hospital visit, I discovered my mom did not remember anything about that day. She did not remember traveling to a new branch of the hospital. She did not remember being wheeled down the depressing hallway under florescent lights to receive her umpteenth scan. She had blocked out almost everything of that day as a coping mechanism to help her move forward.
I remember. I remember everything about that day. I remember buying a latte at my favorite coffee shop, and the barista innocently asking me how my day was going. I remember feeling like my life had changed forever, yet the world had no idea. I remember the dark and dreary hospital lobby with fake silk plants. The dirty worn carpet and the wood chairs with rose colored vinyl seat cushions. I remember the parents who paced anxiously in in the lobby because their 25 year old son was having emergency surgery for an aneurysm. I remember the yelps and tears of joy when the doctor walked into the lobby wearing his blue scrubs and told them he survived. I remember feeling the strangest mix of emotion watching their jubilation. Thankful they will have more time with their loved one, but feeling despair at the little time I had left with mine.
The necklace my mom gave to me represents more than the cold metal that sits on my neck and accessorizes my outfit. Sometimes when I look at it I am reminded of that day. But mostly, I think lovingly of my mom. To me, the necklace is a piece of my mother I carry with me. Having this necklace keeps me from having to say any final goodbyes.
Today as I left the grocery store and approached my car I began digging in the bottom of my purse for my keys. I happened to look down at the cement and catch a glimpse of something shiny lying on the ground reflecting a little ray of sunlight. As I bent down to pick it up I recognized the gold and silver heart shaped emblem. For a split second I thought how crazy it was that someone had lost the same necklace I cherish so much. It wasn’t until I reached up and touched my bare neck, I realized it was mine. The chain was nowhere to be found, but that pendent lay on the concrete in the perfect place so I would see it when I walked back to my car.
I have not stopped crying since it has happened. I have cried tears of joy and gratitude. I have cried tears because I cannot fathom how I would have felt if I had lost it. And I have cried tears because my mom knows what that necklace means to me and continues to walk by my side.
I’m afraid of the attachment I have to something materialistic. In time, maybe the connection to the necklace will lessen. Maybe it will become easier to throw away receipts of our lunches, the ticket stub from our last movie together and all the paperwork from the doctor’s appointments that represent our efforts to save her. But today... I’m not ready to say all of my goodbyes.
For now, my necklace will remain in a safe place and I will carry my mom with me in my heart.