The Elegance of Precious Things

The pain of losing people we love is magnified by the necessary task of going through their clothing, jewelry, and other possessions. In some twisted Marie Kondo exercise, we must hold each object and ask if it “sparks joy.” The answer is, “No. It does not. Right now, nothing does.”

My sisters could only stay with me for a couple of days after our mother died, so together we faced her belongings the very next day. We numbly went through Mom’s things, each of us making little piles of treasures we wanted to keep.

When it came to our mom’s most valuable and sentimental jewelry, there was an easy agreement. My youngest sister felt most attached to her gold charm bracelet. My middle sister would keep our dad’s wedding ring, and I would cherish wearing her gold pavé diamond wedding ring.

My sisters returned home, and over the next couple of days I made several difficult trips to Goodwill to donate my mom’s clothing, shoes, books, and knick-knacks. Employees looked at my puffy eyes sympathetically as I awkwardly retrieved silly things from the boxes, like a banana-shaped bookmark that says, “A banana makes a very messy bookmark.”

I woke in a panic five days after my mother died and gasped, “The ring!” Before the sun was up, I ran through the house looking under furniture, behind drawers, through boxes of costume jewelry and my grandmother’s cedar chest filled with photos and memorabilia.

In a desperate and crazed act, I dumped a full 96-gallon city-issued trash can on the cold garage floor and tore through garbage wailing like an injured animal, not for the loss of the ring but for the loss of my mother.

My frantic search continued out onto our icy driveway. My very kind neighbor, a preacher from South Africa waved me over. We stood in the middle of the snow-packed street in 12-degree temperatures with eyes closed and heads bowed. He prayed for me, for my mom, and for the ring.

As a last-ditch effort, I called Goodwill and told the manager what I had lost. She explained what they did with jewelry that might be valuable and welcomed me to come look through what they had salvaged.

With low expectations, my husband drove me to Goodwill where an employee led me into a cluttered office. My eyes scanned a dusty desk stacked high with detritus. In the center of the desk was a small mound of tangled jewelry. In the center of the mound was my mother’s ring. With shaking hands, I clutched it to my chest and sobbed.

Sometimes it takes a loss to truly understand how much something is worth to us. My mother was a sparkling diamond with a heart of gold. Like all lives, hers was precious and beautiful, as the ring on my hand will forever remind me. §

A Celebration of Life will be held for Lynda Love Fry on Saturday, April 2 from 3-6 pm at Green Hills Country Club in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Email for more information.