Note: I wrote this essay 4 years ago, hoping publication, for THE SUN Magazine. The contest was to write about an inheritance. To my knowledge, it was never published.
An Unusual Keepsake
In memory of my sister
My sister was killed in a car accident. I was the oldest, and it never occurred to me Brenda would die first. In my mind I always pictured us growing old, together, and we’d care for one another’s children. We’d rock away our retirement years, we’d burry our parents, together, and then, I’d go first. I actually used to worry it would be hard for her being the only one left.
To cope with the pain and anger I felt after the accident I started running. For the past 17 years I’ve ran, mostly trails. I’ve found, in nature, the ability to accept, grow, love and find joy daily. And, I bring half a purple handkerchief that I found in my sister’s belongings. There was jewelry, books, a stereo, furniture and photos, but of all the valuables this purple handkerchief, of hers, is the most special to me. I suppose she wore it branding calves one year with our Dad to keep the burnt flesh stench at bay. I’ll never know.
On my runs, I use it to wipe my brow, or more often my nose. But, most of all it has given me a sense of her with me. Her spirit with me. My purple keepsake and I ran thousands and thousands of miles over the last 17 years. It has been with me on several half marathons, a full marathon, and many trail races including The Bridger Ridge Run in Montana where I live. This summer I let it blow in the wind up on Siyeh Pass in Glacier National Park.
A few times over the years my heart has skipped a beat as I feared I’ve dropped it somewhere on the trail only to breathe a sigh of relief, and comfort, when I discover which pocket it’s in.
My purple handkerchief is getting thin with a few holes, but it has been my constant running partner and brought me more joy then a hankie would usually be famed to do.
Current time addition: I ran with that purple hankie today. I also sometimes run with a hankie of my Dad’s, now that he has passed.
In November I am running the New York Marathon. That purple hankie will be with me, and have asked loved ones of my departed friends if I could have a hankie of theirs. I hope to grow my hankie memory scarf in honor of knowing these fine people. If the hankies don’t arrive, I will run the marathon with a mile dedicated to their memory, and our happy time together. Also, as an Emergency Room Nurse I am dedicating a mile to someone whose death affected me greatly, but don’t have means to get such a keepsake.
The hankie memory scarf isn’t a sad thing. Their passing before their time always will be, but I am going to think, they dropped their body……… and will be in the wind with me. I often touch the tall grass, or feel the wind on my face, and know their spirit is with me.