In 2006, my once vibrant, funny, generous mother, Barbara Handel, died after 14 grueling years. Complications from surgery to straighten her big toe resulted in a club foot and an accompanying reclusiveness. Watching her decline weighed on my heart.
This week is Anne’s birthday–a good time for this remembrance. Mom always said, “When I go to that great golf course in the sky, I want you to be close.” She got her wish.
Anne and I recaptured Mom’s spirit at her funeral at the Ira Kaufman Chapel in Southfield, MI. Since Anne lives in Santa Barbara, much of her relationship with Mom in later years took place on the telephone. Anne conducted a charming last conversation with Mom, holding her cell phone to her ear, recounting memories and telling Mom what she meant to her. I created a two-sided sheet of some of Mom’s witticisms which I’d collected over time. I read some aloud, gave the page to mourners who attended that day and sent it to others who couldn’t make it. Mom used to wisecrack that she wanted an audience for her final exit. She’d have been pleased.
Mom loved antiques. After the funeral, Anne and I spread on our pool table numerous old bottles, Tassies (medallions of white enamel paste portrait profiles) and Battersea (English enamel) snuff boxes. We took turns dividing them and shared some with our kids. Mom didn’t wear a lot of jewelry, but we split what she had. Anne took Mom’s diamond tennis bracelet. I knew she’d wear it everyday. I knew I wouldn’t. One piece remained–a Victorian gold bangle engraved with flowers and set with two small diamonds and a sapphire. Mom had worn it often. It slipped over my small wrist with effort–a good thing because it was unlikely to ever fall off. I, too, found myself wearing it often.
Months later, Anne was back in Detroit. We were driving in the car when I said, “I wonder if Mom bought this bracelet as an antique or if she had it as a child.”
“Did you look inside?”
When we parked the car, I took off the bracelet and put on my reading glasses. “Oh my gosh.”
The inside was engraved. In cursive letters: Debra F. Lorenze, my grandmother’s maiden name.
I adored my grandmother, and was delighted to know the provenance of my bracelet. Soon after, I had a jeweler add my mother’s initials and mine. Someday (preferably a long time from now) I hope one of my granddaughters will want to wear this special gift and the bangle will receive another set of initials.
I wear my mom/grandmother’s bracelet whenever I want supernatural help, such as while playing bridge. (I need lots of extra help at the bridge table.) I wear it in the company of our kids or grandchildren, in the belief that their female ancestors are with us in spirit. I wear it to museums or concerts, activities my mom and grandmother also enjoyed.
Most objects are simply things that can be discarded. Every once in a while, an heirloom is more than that. It embodies our hopes, our dreams, our memories. Whether or not it carries intrinsic value, It becomes a treasure.
(Thanks to fellow ReadTheSpirit columnist Debra Darvick, for inspiring columns on similar themes. She calls these heirlooms—”prayerlooms.”)
I’d love to hear stories about your special heirlooms.