The Little Blue Box
As my half-marathon approaches I think of my Mom in Law who was my inspiration for running. I wrote this while I was healing from her death.
The Little Blue Box
A Tiffany heart necklace sits regally inside the little blue box. My husband and I gave it to my mom-in-law (mom) for her 75th birthday. She was in remission from leukemia. That year I wanted to give her something out of the ordinary – she was a very out of the ordinary woman and I loved her dearly. We searched and searched but nothing ever seemed quite right. We decided to stop by Tiffany’s on a whim and it was there that we finally found something that spoke to us – what a better gift than to give her our heart.
Today as I opened the box there was still a faint smell of her favorite perfume. It made me smile and get teary-eyed all at once. I took out the small heart, still without its engraving. It took so long to find the perfect gift that we weren’t able to get it engraved in time for her birthday, but we gave it to her with the promise that the next time she came to San Diego, I would have it engraved.
I’ll never forget the look on her face as she unwrapped the gift and saw the little blue box. The look of surprise on her face was absolutely priceless and is forever ingrained in my memory. For a moment there was no thought of remission or disease, just enjoyment. Once she put the necklace on, she never took it off other than when it was required for x-rays.
We had a great visit in January of 2009. She was no longer in remission but her only complaint was that when she had her last set of x-rays the Tech made her take off her necklace and the chain became tangled. It lay crumpled on a table next to her. I picked it up and silently began to work on it throughout our visit. The chain was so small and delicate that I was afraid I would break one of the links. Mom noticed my struggle and said “it’s ok Hon, I’ll do it later”. After losing so many people I’ve developed a real aversion to the word “later” – or maybe I’m just stubborn. At some point I finally untangled the chain and Mom asked if I would please put it on her. I was as happy to have untangled it as she was to be wearing it again.
Four days later, I received a call letting me know that she passed away unexpectedly. At her celebration of life, my sister-in-law handed me a little blue box. She let me know that Mom was wearing it when she passed away and knew that she would want me to have it. I’d been able to maintain my composure until that moment. I flashed back to untangling the chain and in the midst of my pain I also felt a tiny bit of peace.
In June of 2009 year I completed my first marathon. It was to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma society and I did it to honor Mom’s life. I’m not a runner by any stretch of the imagination and have asthma so it was a challenge but nothing compared to the challenge she had with Leukemia. The little blue box sat on my dresser since the day it was given to me. I was going to engrave it but when I opened the box all I could smell was her perfume. I didn’t want to take it in because I knew they would clean it and I would lose that tiny but powerful connection. I hadn’t wanted to wear it because at that time it just didn’t feel right, I’m not really even quite sure why. One day before the race I passed the little blue box and smiled. I knew exactly what I was going to do.
The morning of the race finally came. I put on my running clothes, walked up to the dresser and picked up the little blue box. I took off the lid and opened the small leather pouch. The fading smell of mom’s perfume slowly drifted towards me. This time it didn’t make me sad, it gave me comfort. I put the heart on my own chain next to a smoky topaz pendant she gave me long before she became ill. For me, those two pieces felt like the blending of our time together, the happy times and the struggle with leukemia. I wanted to have her with me as I crossed the finish line. On Mile 26 as the finish line was in sight, I reached for the necklace and held it tight as I silently said “I love you and miss you mom, this one’s for you”.
In June of 2010, I ran a half-marathon in Moms memory and will again this June 5th, 2011. This year will be in her memory and in honor of my friend Craig who is currently battling Hodgkins Lymphoma (blood cancer). It’s my way of doing something positive to honor mom’s life and Craig’s battle while helping others.by