The Ornament: A story of discovering self worth through grief and loss.
One year ago, this month, my grandma died. It has taken me a full year to digest the immensity of her loss.
Her passing, alongside the consequences of a global pandemic marked by loneliness and isolation, has offered me the opportunity, for perhaps the first time in my life, to slow down, observe, and feel the grief that has been rupturing my heart for what feels like lifetimes. When she left, a gap was left, a canyon so vast, I couldn’t grasp the depth of my sadness.
For the first time in my life I had lost someone at a time in my maturity when I was fully able to grieve the loss.
As a little girl, I somehow always felt her love and understanding. Her appreciation for culture, ritual, travel, nature, food, and music resonated deeply with me. I was intrigued with her unique perspective on the world. She revered experience. Yes, she was a mother, wife, and a grandmother, but she was also a seer and an explorer.
She understood our vivid connection to one another, and to the earth and its history. Whether that was through her love of Native American dance and celebration, or her interest in the waxing and waning moon phases, her and I, we just clicked on a level that I think neither of us really understood. Or at least that I never fully understood, until she was gone and the absence of her was all I could feel.
Following her passing, my parents helped in assuming the tedious task of rummaging through her many belongings. She held trinkets galore gathered from so many destinations across the world. It wasn’t until several months later that my mom would deliver to me something so seemingly unforgettable, but that would spark a moment in time that will last with me forever.
Every Christmas Eve my family would gather at my grandparent’s house, their basement filled with gifts. It was one of my fondest memories of childhood. The blazing wood-fired stove, Christmas music playing, all of my cousins and I dressed up in our Christmas dresses, itchy tights, and patent leather shoes.
As a four- or five-year-old, I wanted desperately to participate in the giving of the season. Of course, I loved to receive the many gifts, but I wanted to give.
I decided to make small ornaments for each of my family members. I remember it taking hours to carefully craft them, and then the task of painstakingly deciding who would get which ornament. I “wrapped” them in white printer paper, writing each of their names on the exterior of the package in pencil.
On the night of Christmas Eve I recall being overcome with emotion, filled with shame that perhaps my small creations weren’t good enough, questioning whether or not my family would really enjoy getting my miniscule gesture from the heart. I wasn’t sure that it, or I, was enough.
I don’t remember anything else of the evening.
Little did I know that this moment of questioning my worth would reverberate through my internal and external world for years to come. Is what I am doing enough? Am I giving enough? Speaking enough? Taking on enough? Is what I am doing of value? Am I heard? Am I seen? Am I enough? These basic questions have caused me to make decisions against my heart, again and again.
Then last year, my mom came to me with some small things they had retrieved from my grandma’s belongings. Among the many pieces was a small gift wrapped in a tattered piece of printer paper with the following words inscribed with pencil on the outside: “To: Grandma, Love: Britty”. Enclosed within it was a small round ornament made of white molding clay, tied gently with a single piece of red string.
She had kept this small gesture of love for over 30 years, tucked away in her closet and in her heart.
I was filled with emotion, as I am writing this now.
It was in this moment I was reminded of my inherent worth. That I am always enough. That everything I give, do and am is more than enough. And that, even tiny gestures of the heart, can be felt for a lifetime.