My grandmother is close to the veil.
This is not a bad thing; her quality of life is not very good anymore and I think she’s ready. She’ll be 91 in October. She’s no longer mobile, and dementia has taken a toll on her in the past few years. And while we love her, there will be a certain release for all of us – her included, when the time comes for her to leave this world.
When I was home visiting my folks this summer, and we went out to see her, much of what she said made little sense. But she was having a good day, relatively speaking: she knew who I was. And this day, what was on her mind was her collection of jewelry. Most of our conversation centered around that topic.
We have it all at the house for safekeeping. And on the last day of my visit, we had some extra time in the morning before leaving for the airport, so I asked if I could see what was in the box.
I’m not sure what I expected to see. She had some beautiful rings, and some pendants my mother sent her from our time in the Far East. Other than that, much of it was trinkets and costume jewelry, most of which were items that could only have had sentimental value, and really only to her. And now, in her present state, that sentimental value could only exist if she were able to remember those sentiments clearly in the first place.
Her charm bracelets fit that category. It’s been decided that they’ll come to me.
I don’t think I’d ever seen them before, yet they seemed familiar to me somehow anyway. They’re old-fashioned charm bracelets, three of them, with big links and gold and brass charms attached by the loops. Travel and golf stuff, mostly: Big Ben is there, a kiwi bird from her New Zealand trip, a membership to her country club back in the Bay Area, a commemoration of the first time she broke 100 in her golf game. The bracelets are jangling with charms, big awkward pokey ones, and chock-full, too…they’re unwieldy and impractical, and not the kind of bracelets one would wear easily today. We probably won’t keep them exactly “as is.”
So…what to do with them?
Well…from when I was twelve, I remember her stories about her New Zealand trip; I’ll keep the kiwi bird. We bonded once over our respective stays in London – mine for a semester abroad and hers from a European cruise, so Big Ben stays too. And the cruise ship will stay, because I know how much she loved her cruises – right up to the last one she went on in 2012, cut short by an ill-fated bout of pneumonia in Jakarta. There are a few other charms that I know the significance of without even asking my mother; they correlate to stories she told me or experiences we shared together. All told, there are probably 8 or 9 charms I would keep because their significance transcends what they meant to her…they mean something else to me…and altogether, they will remind me of our relationship.
In this way, they’ll still be her.
The rest? Well, I think we’ll just “put them in” with her when the time comes. That way, she can keep them. After all, their meaning is in the past. They’re still special, but they belong to an older time.
We’ll keep and treasure what still works, and preserve it – maybe even pass it on – for the future, and, with respect, lay what’s left to rest.
Christine Engelen is one of our fabulous worship leaders at Heart of the Rockies Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She shared this reflection as an offering invitation in worship on September 4, 2016.