It was just a little slip of paper – something inserted in a baby shower gift. A note. A poem. The top had a pretty bouquet on it. She had written it, I’m sure, on the spur of the moment and had no real thought that I’d keep it forever in his baby book. She certainly could never know that one day I would use it to eulogize her.
I stood before a packed church, straight as a rail, with a powerful voice and no quavering knees and spoke of my friend. I did so without crying. At the end I read her poem – the one she’d meant as a welcome for my baby born fourteen years earlier.
Isn’t it funny how we keep little things that, after we lose someone, become so important? They’re like nuggets of gold in the stream of our lives. We catch a glimpse of them – these gifts – sitting on bookshelves, mantels, or hanging in our closets, and all of a sudden they take on new meaning. They’re gone. The person who shared such times with us is gone and we’re left with these tokens of a life spent together.
On my mantel is a clock that stopped working years ago. I keep it because on the back, written in permanent marker, my friend wrote, “Friends for all of time.” She is gone but the clock stays. I’m sure that’s just a sign I’m far too sentimental (and disorganized!) for my own good. I like the clock. I don’t mind time standing still. If it had, my boy wouldn’t have moved away to college and he’d still be here – trashing the kitchen with his midnight meals. But time doesn’t stand still. It marches on and drags down our jowls until soon our necks resemble turkeys’.
I have a collection of rocks. They began as a gift from my friend Andy. He sent one as a Christmas gift in 1998 and one shortly after. They’re the largest in my collection – more like bricks – and they’re also the most valuable to me.
I have a drawing of an olive from 10th grade typing class. It was drawn by my friend Millicent. She knows I still have it. It’s in a photo album. I have no idea why I kept it. I mean, sure, I like olives, but why I’d have kept that over the masses of horse and shark drawings she’d done since 5th grade, I have no clue. To me, that olive means the world.
I have nearly all my boys’ drawings. Really. I used to have a wall covered entirely from floor to ceiling. They were taped together like wall paper. It was glorious. The drawings are precious.
I have shiny decorative objects and jewelry from Marcia. They glitter and remind me I’ve friends who think I’m sparkly.
I have a lifetime of gifts from my family, and at the end of the day, isn’t that what life’s all about – giving? Your time, your effort, a smile. They end up being memories for those you leave behind. Priceless.