Tag Archives: love

My Mother’s Pearls

Those pearls I gave my mom for one of her birthdays were such “an extravagant” gift, she thought they belonged in the red satin box they arrived in.  She would concede to wear them only for very special occasions.


I begged her to wear them every day if she felt like it.  She couldn’t imagine that.  I finally confessed to her that her perception of extravagance was…well…in the case of those pearls…misperceived.  I had a friend, who at that time was a flight attendant, flying to Beijing, with the opportunity to shop at the night market.  She brought back beautiful real pearls and knock-off’s of everything else twice a month.  Mom’s pearls were not the unbelievable extravagance she imagined they were.  I happily bought them for her, and a strand for myself, and earrings, and bracelets and all kinds of things via the Beijing night market.  I liked them, but they didn’t mean that much to me.  They meant luxury and extravagance to mom and they were special.


It took some time, but she was finally convinced to wear her pearls with more regularity.  Then she died.  Suddenly.  She died and it took my siblings and I many many wrenching months to go through her house and decide what to do with her things.  I took the pearls in the red satin box home with me.  I rarely wore my own pearls but I began to wear mom’s.  They never saw the inside of that red satin box again.  I wore them with sweats to work out in, with jeans, in the shower and to bed.  I wore them all the time for months.  I thought of her everyday while I wore her pearls.


Later in that year that she died, I was dressing to meet friends in Seattle for dinner.  It was early winter and bitter cold.  I decided to wear a yellow cashmere sweater my mom always admired, though I never really cared much for it.  But it was cozy and warm and made me think of her so I slipped on the pearls as well.  I loved the way it felt to wear them and I loved to tangle my fingers in them, being a natural born hair twizzler like she was, like my sisters and daughter are.


In the middle of a lively conversation at dinner, I absently reached to twirl mom’s pearls and discovered that they were gone!  I’d never had occasion to unclasp them before because the strand was long enough to slip over my head.  I looked everywhere, retraced all my steps, enlisted my friends in the search.  No pearls anywhere.  I was devastated.  I drove home in tears and shock, my heart broken, feeling almost the same as if I were suddenly losing my mom all over again.  The pearls never turned up.  Eventually, I  accepted that they were gone forever and hoped that whoever found them would wear them every day.  I put my own pearls in the red satin box and never wore them again.


On Christmas Eve two years later, as I was dressing to go to a party, I thought about mom’s pearls and missed her, wished I could wear them and feel her.  I decided I would wear mine and opened the red satin box for the first time in two years.  Empty!  I stared at that box in disbelief and stunned confusion.  The submerged sense of loss that had dissipated with time, welled up inside of me again and I sat on my bed and cried until I was spent.


Finally, resigned, I approached my dresser to retrieve my pearl earrings out of the jumbled tangle of bracelets and necklaces in my jewelry box.  I opened the box and there were my pearls, part of the tangle.  What a relief to slowly realize that I must have simply forgotten that I put them there.  I picked them up to put them on.


Hanging in a loop from my string of pearls were mom’s, clasped in tact, held together, as if they were linked arm and arm, as if they were meant to be together, as if no explanation were necessary.  What could possibly be the explanation for something like that?  I felt my Mama’s sweet presence acutely and my knees buckled.  An extravagant rush of gratitude washed over me, and I began to cry all over again, despair replaced with intense joy and wonder at life’s delicate mysteries.


I wore both strands together that night and the next, the pleasure of them hanging together around my neck and over my heart was delectable.  I never suspected in the midst of the music, feast and toasts, all the gaiety of those holiday parties, that it would be the last Christmas I was to share with my dad and my brother alive.


Life and death are so strange, so bittersweet. Life can seem so temporary and death so final.  But is that really true?  What is real and constant for me is the presence of mystery in them both, the challenge to make some kind of sense of their experiences and stories.  I love that.  I’m wearing my mother’s pearls.

Do You Want To Make Love Last?

“Do You Want To Make Love Last?  What do you want to do first?”

Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins, local author and personal hero.


It’s a yummy double juicy entendre.  How do we make Love last?  It’s an eternal question.  It’s a question with many simply complicated answers.

First, what constitutes making Love…let alone making it last?  If you want to make Love last, what role does fore play?  Something has to come first if there is a last.  What do we do first to make Love last?

Perhaps we must first decide to believe in Love.  Believe it’s real and valuable.  That it matters.  Not because we are told that it matters.  Not because we are lonely or afraid to be alone, but because we care deeply about someone or something.  That someone could be ourselves, our kin.  That something could be what’s in our heart, our community, our cause.

“Love your neighbor as yourself”.  (Mathew 22:29-Mark 12:31)  It’s the second commandment of Christ.  The first, of course, is Love the All Encompassing Organizing Principle of the Universe we call God.  Then Love someone else as much as you Love yourself.  Love yourself first, though.  Enough.  As much as you can.  If you can.  You can’t make Love last if you aren’t able to do what’s required first.

“Love never ends.”  (1st Corinthians 13).  It’s biblical.  It’s epic.  It’s metaphysical.  It’s a concept.  It might not be true.  Or maybe it is true that love never ends if you have ever, in fact or indeed, truly Loved.  Maybe what’s left of Love that seems to have ended is the memory of it buried deep beneath the rubble of abandonment, rejection, neglect, apathy, change of heart, change of circumstance or even something horrific like abuse.

I once imagined that if I ever Love someone, I always will.  I won’t quit.  It can never end.  That might not be true. Or maybe it is true if I have, in fact or indeed, truly Loved.  Maybe I only thought that I Loved and if pressed would be forced to admit that I was mostly addicted to the thought of Loving.  But if, for instance, I was seriously unloved, the opposite-of-loved in return, then I must not have Loved myself much.  I didn’t remember to do the first thing.  I didn’t Love myself enough to honor myself over un-love. This is an attempt to make sense of making Love…first and last. It’s an exercise.  It’s a process.  Quite possibly futile.

Un-love is not the same as unrequited Love.  I am not making this up.  Unrequited Love is heart wrenching, even common, but it’s not un-love. We can’t try to Love any more than we can try to be happy, try to meditate or try to believe in God.  Love just is.  We can’t make it happen and we can’t make it not happen when it does.  When it does happen as we wish it’s grand.  When it isn’t returned as we wish, no amount of trying or cajoling or begging or manipulation will make it be what it isn’t.  We could take it personally, but it isn’t personal.  Not really.  It is what it is.  We still Love whether returned or not.

Un-love though, the opposite of love, is intentional.  We decide it.  We make it happen. We go against Love.  We break the Law.  We harm and are harmed by un-love.  We don’t do the first thing.  We don’t love ourselves.  When we un-love someone or something, there’s just no way we can make Love last.

Let’s make Love not un-love.  Let’s make Love not war.

Let’s make Love first so that Love can last.