The Peacock Brooch

Years ago, I was given a velvet covered box by my mother.  She gave it to me upon her deathbed just two days before she died.

“Keep this,” she said, with a weak voice, thin hand trembling from the ravages of the cancer she had battled bravely for nearly a year before losing her struggle.  “Wear it when you need strength and know I am with you.”

Swallowed by grief, I had placed the box safely inside a drawer in the nightstand table beside my bed.  It took me several months before I could open it without crying uncontrollably.

At the time, I had just given birth to my youngest daughter, Catherine and had found a breast lump.  I knew it wasn’t good.  I was only 29 years old at the time with four other children and a newborn.  The doctors feared the worst and in those days, the worst meant death for there weren’t the treatment options available back then that there are now.

I needed my mother more than ever but, try as I may, she was nowhere to be found, in spite of my deep belief of a life after this one.

The night before I was to see the surgeon, I was wrought with fear.  I couldn’t sleep.  I could barely sit without crying.  The rest of the household slept soundly while I paced the floors.  Prayers didn’t work to calm me at this point for I had no sign that there was something greater than me to pray to at this point.  Afterall, what loving God would allow someone with five children and a husband at such a young age to have such a disease?

As I paced the creaky flooring, fearing I would wake a sleeping baby with colic, I tried hard to connect to my mother.  I needed her to be with me to tell me to smarten up…I would be ok but, in spite of my best efforts, I could not find any sense of her presence in any way.

As the clock struck 4:00 a.m., I found myself in total panic.  In four hours, I would be heading for the hospital for surgery to find out whether I would live or die.  It was then, that I heard my mother’s voice from memory on her death-bed and headed into the bedroom to take out the box she had given to me in the final days of her life.

Quietly, so as not to wake my sleeping husband, I inched open the drawer beside my side of the bed, unruffled, undisturbed and fumbled to feel the box as I dared not turn on the beside lamp then, took it as quietly as possible into the livingroom and sat on the sofa beside a single lamp that I’d kept turned on.

My shaking fingers could barely hang onto the box.  As lifted the lid, I found a yellowed white, hand embroidered handkerchief that wrapped and protected a gold-colored brooch.  It’s gold color accentuated the many fine strands of gold wire which made up the long tail of a Peacock.  Colored glass stones, cut into diamond chip shapes, made up its eyes and bottoms of its tail feathers.

I held onto the pin, clutching it to my chest, crying silent sobs of fear.

“Oh, how I wish you were here, Mom,” I cried in whispers.  “I need you to be with me today.”

I don’t know to this day if it was fear or imagination or whether it was real but, I suddenly felt someone in the room with me.  I turned, thinking one of our many cats had entered the room but, there was no one and nothing there so, I went back to my crying and rocking, holding the metal gold-colored bird in my hands.

Again, I felt something or someone in the room behind me and turned again to find no one there.  However, this time, I heard my mother’s voice.

“You’ll be ok,” was all she said.

There was an instant sense of peace that washed over me in hearing her voice and those words and, I suddenly felt my body stop its shaking.  I leaned back in relief, clutching the bird to my chest and drifted off into a deep sleep, awakening only when my husband gently shook my shoulder at 6:30 a.m.

After bathing and getting ready to head to the hospital, I pinned the brooch to my blouse, the handkerchief in hand and, left our neighbor her final instructions to care for the children while we were gone.

When I awoke from the anesthesia, I was sick to my stomach and groggy.  My husband was beside me, holding my hand.

“Where’s my brooch?” I asked in a loud whispery voice, startled, mouth dry, throat sore and feeling more nauseous than I’d ever felt in my life.  “I need my brooch!”

My husband pointed to the pillow under my head.  There, it was, pinned to the cover.

“You kept talking about a bird when you came out of the recovery room,” my husband said, leaning forward to stroke my forehead.  “The only bird that I knew of was the one you were wearing so, I pinned it to your pillow.”

I put my hand on it and fell back asleep again.

Two weeks later, the doctor told me that the lump had been benign and there was no need for further surgery.

“You’ll be just fine,” he said.  I smiled.  My mother had told me I would be.  I knew then that she had truly been with me.

To this day, I keep her brooch in that box, wrapped in the handkerchief.  Fearful of losing it, I only put it on when I’ve needed to be comforted.

At some point, I will pass this onto whichever of my children need it most.  It will be my way of telling them that I am with them.  I will also leave instructions that it’s to be cherished and shared with one another as they need it but, that I will always be with them.

I hope that it gives them the same comfort that it’s given to me.  For now, it’s still my connection to my mother.  Soon, I will have no need for it as I will be with her but, until then, it’s still with me.

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