What We Lose, What We Gain

Some years ago – like maybe a decade – most of my jewelry was stolen. None of it was very valuable, although there were some pearls and jade and a little amber, and a lovely pair of moonstone stud earrings. But, as is the way of things, each piece had a story that was part of my life. That was the real value, and hence the deepest loss. I’d had some of them since my childhood, and some had been gifts from loved ones who’ve since died. Some of it was my mother’s.

I went through the expected rage and frenzy, scouring local flea markets in the forlorn hope that I might spot a piece or two. Of course, I did not. When that stage had run its course, the police report filed (and, doubtless, forgotten), anger turned to grief, and grief to acceptance, and acceptance to looking in a new way at what I’d lost.

I wrote in my journal that the thieves had taken bits of minerals, crystals, shells, fossilized tree sap, but they could not steal:

the stories in my mind
the books I’ve written
my children
the redwoods
my dreams
my friends
their kindness and generosity to me
my capacity for joy…

Slowly, over the years, I have acquired a new collection. It’s smaller and more suited to who I am now. I discovered a few things from my mother, tucked away in an old cigar box with some broken bits and things I didn’t wear. Friends and family surprised me with simple, beautiful pieces: a strand of black pearls, an amber pendant, a necklace of silver and garnet dangles, tiny garnet earrings. I went through a period of needing “replacements,” and then letting them go. My daughters and I have swapped a number of pairs of earrings. It’s such a delight to pass them on. And to realize I don’t truly need any of this.

What I need are the people I love, and who love me. What I need is to write the stories in my heart. What I need is to work for a better world for everyone.

I look at what I have, what I have lost, what cannot be taken from me, what I have gained. Yes, I enjoy beautiful things. But how much more precious are the memories that come with them.


The necklace: The Queen Sirikit Navaratna accepted by Her Majesty, the Queen of Thailand in 1993, made by Richard Shaw Brown and based on the Navaratna belief in Planetary Gemology, public domain



What We Lose, What We Gain — 4 Comments

  1. It’s valuable to contemplate this as I look around the house and once again decide I have too much stuff. I find it very hard to make decisions about things, partly because they evoke memory and sentiment. Still, very few of the important things in life are things, something that comes home to me when I spend time with my father, whose memories are ebbing away. I’d give up a lot of possessions to hear him tell stories again.

    • Oh me, too. I hold those things that my parents loved, and feel their presence more strongly. It’s important for me to tell stories, to keep them going as it were. Just as I am a (very fallible) custodian of physical mementos, so I try to be a (creative, enthusiastic) custodian of family tales.

  2. Yes, I felt the same when our place was burglarized not long after I was married. The sharpest loss was the two-century-old earrings that some ancestors had brought over from Sweden. These ancestors were peasants, so the earrings were only gold-plated, and most of the gold had worn off, but the style was very 18th century, and there was that thought of them being handed down mother to daughter. I knew that they would have been tossed in the garbage as worthless because they would have little value at a pawnshop.

    Value can be such a personal thing.

    • Yes, that was one of the hardest things to make my peace with – that the things which had such precious histories in every scratch or dent ensured that no one would ever appreciate them or wonder about where they’d been and who had worn and loved them. Like the Velveteen Rabbit of jewelry. One thing that helped me was thinking of those bits of metal and crystal returning to Earth’s loving embrace, resting at last in the place they were created (well, that would be the Sun, but less farther-removed).