Editor's Column: An Eye-Opening Lesson In Loss
Published: Sunday, September 15, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 15, 2013 23:09
She’d let all her grandchildren try on her patent leather stilettos, slather her signature pink lipstick all over our faces and put on a fashion show—the permeating smell of mothballs and cigarette smoke dancing in the air.
We were little girls entranced by the magic of her wooden jewelry boxes. My dad’s mom would place oversized gold clip-on earrings on our tiny ears, clasp her favorite Colombian emeralds around our necks. She’d guide us to the mirror, recounting the story behind each special jewel, watching as our eyes lit up when she said we could each keep our favorite piece. I chose a simple long gold chain, which at the time probably inched past my belly button. I don’t remember why I didn’t gravitate toward the chunky locket, or the charm bracelet that rattled when you walked. Since I had seen grandma donning this simple elegant chain, I had wanted to emulate her.
This chain is one of the few pieces of jewelry that I care deeply for. As a Christmas present a few years ago my aunt gave me a deep blue enameled Saint Christopher’s medallion that I placed on my gold chain. This became my most treasured piece of jewelry.
Around seven years ago, my grandmother started exhibiting the signs of Alzheimer’s. During every visit, I was always completely shocked by her steep decline. During my most recent visit with her last spring, she no longer knew my name, and could barely form coherent sentences. She passed away peacefully this summer.
On Monday I was sitting at my kitchen table when I became suddenly aware that my necklace was missing. I had taken it off to play with the charm earlier that day outside of O’Neill. I must have forgotten to put it back on. I ran back to campus, frantically tracing my steps around the quad. I asked the security guard in the library if he had found any pieces of jewelry, but he hadn’t. He assured me that some people file reports, if they have lost really expensive items such as diamond earrings or rare pearls.
I thanked him and assured him that wouldn’t be necessary. My simple gold chain wasn’t worth anything—it probably wasn’t even real gold. But as my grandmother had begun slipping into mental decline, that necklace had become my replacement for her—my reminder of those humid summer days when we pranced around her bedroom singing and giggling, her jewelry and their stories galvanizing us.
When she no longer knew who I was, or how I fit into the puzzle of her life, I held that chain around my neck as a reminder of the idyllic days spent with her. If she couldn’t remember me, I was going to remember her.
Every time I walk near O’Neill I check the bench again, hoping that by some miracle, I’ll find my necklace. I still reach down my neck to feel the comfort of my chain there, and feel an aching sense of loss.
Of course my modest chain is just a material thing, but it was the closest thing I had to my grandmother—inextricably bound with so many untainted memories of the past. These memories are not lost, but my loss of the chain has made me re-evaluate memory making in my own life.
Here at BC it’s easy to become flustered by school work, activities, and everyday concerns. But at the end of the day, it’s the connections we make with the people we love that we will remember in the long run. It’s those trips to the North End with good friends, long chats on a run training for a marathon with your roommate. It’ll be that road trip to Maine you remember—not that you failed your first midterm.
In a few years, I probably won’t remember the tangible chain I once wore around my neck regularly, but I will most certainly remember my grandmother’s eyes as she recounted fascinating stories of rubies and introduced me to the world of dress up.
As I get settled back at BC this semester, it’s with a bittersweet awareness that I’ll be in Madrid in the spring. And although this is an exciting prospect for a new beginning, it is also an aching realization of loss. I will not be with my family, and I will not be with all of my best friends.
This seemingly petty loss of a material item has given me perspective on making meaning in life. This semester I have made a pledge to slow down and appreciate the little moments with the people I care most about. Because in the end, all we truly hold onto are those memories. And as I have come to realize, these memories far exceed the tangible bounds of material objects.
Oh, and if you happen to find my necklace, I’m still holding onto hope it’ll turn up.