authentic expression

In Memoriam: Q

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I’ve been wearing a turquoise bracelet for over a week now, even sleeping with it which is very unusual for me. A dear friend mailed it to me when I was living on the Navajo reservation in 1993. I remember it arrived in a small manila envelope at HCR 6100 Box 40, Teec Nos Pos, Arizona. Unwrapping the tissue paper, I discovered a cerullian blue oval-shaped stone clasped to a simple silver band. It was understated and lovely like the friend who’d sent it to me.

Let’s call her Q since she loved quetzals nearly as much as she loved her privacy. Based upon this tendency toward solitude, and introversion, she kept the cancer she carried to herself. In fact, only her closest family members were aware that it was seeping through her breasts, bones, and eventually brain. I found out about her illness twenty-four hours before she passed on and reached reflexively for the turquoise bracelet I’d set aside years before. It was a piece that hadn’t quite worked with my professional and suburban attire–or so I told myself. How easily I put things aside for later, sometimes even a friendship because, like everyone I know, I’m ever so busy.

I clasped the bracelet to my left wrist where it is less likely to be knocked off if I bang it against the door in my rush to get out of the house each morning. Or maybe I’ve intuitively chosen the left side where the bracelet grazes the pathway of the vein the ancient Egyptians believed led from the third finger directly to the human heart.

Q was buried today; what hurts most of all is that I didn’t get to tell her the words knocking around my heart including how much I loved her and how much I will miss her everyday kindnesses. Once, she gave me a geode and told me how it had formed and why it appeared as it did but all I remember now is the surprise of her heaving it into my hands and the sparkle of the crystals within. I remember Q’s hands were strong and she seemed always to be digging in the dirt, coaxing flowers or green beans or tomatoes to grow. She was forever cooking, pouring wine, and laughing, and to sit at her table was to feel like I’d come home to a family I hadn’t realized I was missing until that moment. She never gave me a single bit of advice but instead brewed strong tea and listened to whatever foolishness spilled out of my twenty-something mouth. She told me she loved me even when I did not love myself.

Q’s hair was the color of embers in the bracken that surrounded her New Hampshire home and I’ll never forget the sound of her laughter, how it pealed from deep in her throat and up to the branches of the trees lining her property. Forever in my memory Q is caught in the spaces between the talismans she gave and the actions she endeavored to take–she is a turquoise bracelet, a geode, a garden, steward of the Lamprey River. She is the book of poetry inscribed to me, the very best and beautiful of every small moment. She is the vein to the center of my humbled and grateful heart.

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