It was the day after I had flown over an ocean with three kids in tow, the day after we had landed to find her too weak to rise from the couch, the day after she had fallen twice, even depending on her black, shiny walker. It was hours after my sister and I had knelt on either side of her bed, tears welling up from the bottom of our guts, churning and fighting against it all as we eventually surrendered and agreed that she should stop chemo after four consecutive years of nonstop treatment.
It was then that I realized I had lost my earring, one of the teardrop mother-of-pearl drop earrings she had bought for me on my last visit, the time we thought we would never see each other again. And I had chosen them because the teardrop shape was so appropriate, and pearl was her birthstone, so it all just felt right.
Until I lost one on that unforgettable day, the day the Hospice nurse came to assess her health, or lack thereof.
We stayed for seven weeks, seven heart-wrenching weeks of wheelchairs and oxygen tanks and ice cream in the Hospice House.
Then I had to pack up to go back to Africa and leave her there, the cancer gnawing away at her insides,
and I found my earring.
For a brief moment I exhaled in relief, until I fumbled around my sister’s house and realized with much dismay that I couldn’t find the other one. The original earring that hadn’t been lost that first day was now nowhere to be found, and my shoulders sank.
It’s not like I believe in omens or bad luck or anything like that, but those single earrings that went missing on the first and last days of my trip — they were like supernatural bookends on a shelf that bore countless archived tales.