Kasey died unexpectedly this week, on a terrible Tuesday. I was at work, 30 minutes away, and there was no way to get home fast enough to say goodbye; he was gone 10 minutes after letting out a pained yelping whimper. I rushed home anyway to be beside my husband who was coping with the sudden shock of losing a pet in the midst of the chaos of caring for a parent with dementia. Kasey was lying so still in the living room, at peace but clearly no longer present. I stroked his fur and massaged his paws and ears. We struggled through the indignity of hefting him, in a sheet, out to the car, laying him gently in the back of the SUV. I made my way to the vet clinic; it was a brutally hot day but before I signed the papers and set the efficient wheels in motion for cremation, I lingered at the back of the truck as long as I could, whispering my thanks and love to this very good boy who shared 12 wonderful years with us. As I stroked his ears and paws I could already feel the coolness of a body in death. I pulled myself away, signed some forms and watched the techs gently place him on a guerney and wheel him away. He was a very good boy, and he shall not be forgotten.
Ernie the inventor, some 80 years old and a widower now, makes treasures out of forgotten scraps of stuff. “Come to my place”, he says, “I want to give you something.” So we go, my parents and sister, step-daughter, niece and I, prowling his porch and admiring shovels sprouting ears and eyes, iron twisted into shapes, bowls and plates fused together like faces of a flower. Niece Jen leaves with a sparkle of beads and wire wrapped around a vintage Coke bottle; a hummingbird feeder for her back yard. My mom carries a flower-face, my dad the metal rod to stand it in a garden. My sister chooses a small snowman crafted out of wire, parted from his parent who stands three feet high. And Grace and I take away a metal star, which we will hang at Christmas and twine with white lights, and think of Ernie the inventor, a generous soul, some 80 years old, who crafts with his hands and makes people smile.
The jewelry pieces that I own were almost all gifts to me, mostly handcrafted. These little bits of glass, beads and sparkle, put together by an artist somewhere, are reminders of the people that love me–husband, sisters, step-kids, friends. I’m grateful not just for the gifts themselves but for what they represent, and especially on days when I feel unlovely or not up to the challenges that face me, I choose a piece of jewelry, and wear it into my day, conscious of keeping that person close to my heart and hands. These tiny portable gifts are a daily reminder that I am known and loved.