Gunga’s Ring

This is Gunga’s ring. It goes to you when I die.

It is something my mother said to me at least a thousand times over the course of her life, each time pointing to the antique diamond ring she wore on her right hand, a ring that had belonged to her grandmother, a ring Mom wore every day.

I know, Mom, I know I said a thousand times in return, rolling my eyes at her need to reiterate.

I know.

And here I am now, eight months after that cold winter day we laid my mother to rest. It has taken some time—I know it always does—to address the endless details in the settling of her affairs. Thanks to my devoted brother, William, Mom’s every request is being honored. As of Thursday night, Gunga’s ring is on my right hand.

I am surprised at the weight of this transfer of ring from Gunga to La-La to Mom to me. It carries with it a strange mix of emotions, from comfort and connection to deep deep sadness—a mixed bag I shared with my husband this afternoon as we took a quiet moment to talk about the week’s events. He listened generously, but in the mere telling of the story I realized something of significance: The grief is intensely private when a daughter loses her mother. 

Nevertheless, a few minutes later he walked through the living room and stopped to put his arms around me.

It makes it so real that she is gone I said, my eyes filling with tears. It makes me so sad.

He looked at me and smiled.

Well, at least she didn’t have to suffer through that awful football game last night*, he said.

I couldn’t help but laugh. Mom and Dad were there for every game during my four years at Clemson, a magical time capped off with a national championship my senior year. How we hoped for a repeat this year, with the beautiful and unlikely parallel 31 years later for Eliza, now in her junior year at Clemson—my daughter, Mom’s granddaughter, La-La’s great-granddaughter, Gunga’s great-great-granddaughter.

And then I laughed again, knowing exactly how likely it is that the next time I see my sweet girl, I will point to my right hand and say emphatically This is Gunga’s ring. It goes ….

 

Mom and me, 1995

*Florida State over my beloved Clemson Tigers 51-14.

 

joie de vivre

The month of February was a difficult one, but it was also filled with such a wash of blessings I am still overflowing.

This was one of the first: a sweet bouquet of pink tulips delivered by my daughter, sent to me from the extraordinary group of friends who now surround her at Clemson. It was a move she made not so long ago, this shifting of Eliza’s world from home to university, and one that brought me (unexpectedly) to my knees as I fretted over the immense change taking place in both our lives. As we hugged goodbye on the sidewalk in front of that freshman dorm 18 months ago, I looked her in the eyes and promised hard You are going to be so happy here.

And here she is now, 18 months later, fully ensconced in college life. Central to her joy is this group of smart, funny, beautiful girls who bring sparkle and love and loyalty to her world.

They are also extremely thoughtful, these daughters of mothers who have taught them well.

I grateful I am. How pleased my own Mother would be.

 

Heaven Smiles Over Clemson

It had been a glorious day, perfect for football, dear friends, hugs from an endless parade of Eliza’s precious college friends. We were walking back from a visit to Old Mr. Knickerbocker’s (a little impromptu Christmas shopping—promises the new sweatshirt will NOT be worn early) when I looked right to see this.

over Tillman Hall

It stopped me in my tracks. So much that I love converged in that moment—tradition, connection, legacy, friendship—my prayer of gratitude painted before me, there in that Clemson sky. How blessed I have been in my life. How much I owe to this remarkable university.

 

Taking the Exit

A year ago, this would not have occurred to me. Or to be more truthful, it would have occurred to me but I would have quickly brushed the thought aside with an “I really don’t have the time… .”

Things have changed in my life, mostly because I am now 50+ and I realize how fast time is passing. And also, quite frankly, because I write this blog. (Shifting your thoughts to where is the blessing? has a way of changing most everything.)

And so, after a business meeting in Greenville yesterday, I decided to stay over and meet Eliza, who drove over from Clemson, for dinner and a show. I even splurged a bit on a room at The Poinsett Hotel, adjacent to The Peace Center and the Gavin DeGraw/David Cook concert.

It was a grand night filled with good food, great music and mother/daughter conversations we don’t get to have often enough. Then all too soon, morning came and it was time for goodbye kisses and a misting rain drive back to Columbia.

All along the route I was mesmerized by the colors of fall that lined the highways. Do I love the firey red the most? Or the poplar gold? Or is it simply the surprise that for the 52nd time in my life, summer is over, and fall has come again?

I pulled off the interstate, and this is what I found.

I’m thinking I just might paint it. What a beautiful reminder that so much awaits if you simply take the exit.