My mother died 2 months after she turned 48. Her boyfriend was suspected in her death, but he was never charged. This left me with no answers, no closure, and no mother.
I think this emotional “lostness” created a need for connections to her that I may not have experienced otherwise, at least not at the same intensity. I clung to everything – her clothes, her books, and anything with her handwriting on it. That same circling script that signed my elementary school permission slips became a touchstone for me as an adult, reminding me of days spent in her orbit, safe and oblivious to the ticking clock.
She was born in July, and so was I. Whenever I saw birthstones in a store display or even a mention of rubies in a book, I would excitedly point it out to her. “Mom, look! It’s our birthstone.” It was one of our connections, another invisible thread that tied us together. Little did I know, it would become even more important after her death.
She was kind and beautiful and extremely intelligent. Her hair was soft and hot-roller curled in smooth waves. People were drawn to her empathetic nature and musical laugh. She was capable and trustworthy and fun. Always fun. She could sew, make pizza and ice cream from scratch, upholster a car and grew the most amazing vegetable gardens. She went back to school and got her real estate license, becoming a broker and opening her own company after I left for college. She would take on any challenge and, win or lose, look stunning in the attempt. She took being a parent seriously, but never herself. She celebrated the accomplishments of others, and was a selfless supporter. No wonder our house was always full!
After she died, my sister and I began to sift through what was left behind. She kept a storage unit. We expected to open the door and find our piano and china cabinet. They were there, yes, but there was more. So much more. It was like a family time capsule, full of boxes and bins packed with evidence of just how much she had loved us. We discovered our baby teeth, carefully stored, labeled and saved all those years. There was schoolwork (a ridiculous amount of it!), report cards, Valentines we had sent her over the years, and jewelry boxes. In one of them was a ruby ring.
I remember trying it on and wearing it that day. Another connection. My sister and I didn’t recognize it, though. I asked my grandmother if she had given it to her. She said she had never seen it before, and neither had my dad. I even asked her boyfriend. I was relieved he didn’t know anything about it.
Sometimes we are left with no choice but acceptance. I surrendered my need for answers a long time ago, but I will always treasure my connections. I don’t have to know where she got the ring to appreciate its beauty. Just knowing it was hers and had once been on her hand is enough for me. I wear it every day and when people ask about it, I simply say, “It was my mother’s. It’s our birthstone.”