I started this post 8 days ago when the pain was still raw, the scab of grief was not quite hardened enough to remove the protective bandage covering my sorrow. I would start to type and the words remained garbled on the page. I couldn’t finish my sentences. My grammatical errors glared back at me in judgment, and I was so overcome by emotion that tears would blur my vision.
“It’s ok,” they said with sympathy-laden voices. “You don’t have to write.”
No. It’s not ok. I can’t not write. I simply can’t.
So here I sit in the dark, quiet space of sunrise. Reflecting. Remembering. Writing.
About a month ago, we sat by her bedside, the final stretch of her journey looming before us like the darkened clouds of an incoming storm. Her sister, Betty, and I were trying to keep the conversation light and lively; she opened her eyes and gave a weak smile. I can’t recall the exact story we were sharing, can’t quite remember what started my mother-in-law talking as well, but she was awake. Alert. Engaged. There was laughter with a thread of silliness as Betty and I talked about family, kids, and life, catching up on the recent events of the week. Then there was a break in the chatter. A pause. And mom spoke to me.
“Take some of my jewelry.”
She had already shared this invitation with her two daughters, her three granddaughters as well. Her beaded, costume jewelry still sits in a bag on my daughter’s desk, treasures too valuable to touch.
I was different. I was the daughter-in-law.
I did as she asked, reaching into the top drawer of her bureau, removing a wooden box engraved with a quote about Grandparents, my children’s small faces smiling back at me in the photo centered in the wood. I had given her this jewelry box years before and it made me smile to see it again. There were only a few pieces of jewelry remaining, small trinkets of tarnished metal and a couple of clip-on earrings. I politely took a pair of earrings, knowing her desire for me to have something from her, then carefully returned the box back to the top drawer.
“Go look beside it. There’s more.”
My eyes traveled to the left of the dresser to the small jewelry stand almost hidden from view. Opening the door, I saw simple chains of gold, a brooch, and then… the bracelet.
It’s funny what you remember when time stands still.
The bracelet was simple, nothing elaborate. Rectangular links of silver creating a perfect circle held in place by a flexible thread. Along the perimeter, there were four colored birthstones, representing each grandchild she had at the time.
Only three of those four babies were born.
This bracelet was a birthday gift, purchased by me to give to her as a surprise announcement of the fourth grandchild to come. My baby’s due date was March 3, 2003, a delightful triangulation of threes. We kept the secret for weeks, despite the fact that my growing belly now required elastic waistbands and maternity shirts. Living out-of-state away from family made this natural progression easier to hide.
We had already heard the heartbeat, marking days from one trimester to the next. There was no cause for worry, no need for concern, even the daily ritual of morning sickness was starting to abate.
The bracelet arrived in a beautiful box, surrounded by lush velvet. My in-laws would arrive the next weekend and we would celebrate Mom’s birthday a week early.
And then… everything just stopped.
No heartbeat. No movement. No change. My second child’s life was lost before it had barely begun.
My in-laws arrived and the bracelet was given, but the aquamarine gem had lost its luster. It now served as a reminder of things that would never be.
Now, thirteen years later, I stood with Mom once again, holding the bracelet that represented life and death, the parallel so vivid to Mom’s journey now. I turned to face her, my eyes brimming with tears and met her gaze with clarity.
“The bracelet! Mom, you still have the bracelet!”
My voice was filled with awe and wonder. The bracelet had survived more than a decade, with moves across state lines. It was left unselected by the other family members, its value and worth unknown like a hidden treasure at an auction sale.
It was waiting for me all along.
I put the bracelet on my wrist, the silver links still gleaming from immaculate care, as I retold the story to Betty, who was still sitting in the room. I faced Mom and saw her watching us. That’s when the impact of the bracelet hit me.
She would meet my angel baby before me.
I shared my realization with her and the corners of her mouth turned up slightly, the weak smile radiating across her face. “Yes, I will,” she said before her eyes closed again.
This was her act of kindness to me.