I was asked to write about a trinket, something I have kept for a long time…

To My Dying Day…and Then Some

Pat Gray

I don’t know that I could ever refer to it as a trinket, but I have had it now for almost ten years and I know I will keep it for as long as my forever is. There is nothing that could take its place and I know of nothing I could possibly hold more dear. It always, with few exceptions, hangs on a thin silver chain that wraps my neck. Three previous chains have broken and unknowingly fallen off my neck, my “trinket” with them, lost to me. Always, after much searching and wringing of hands, I have found it, once as long as five weeks later. There is something almost mystical in its ability, thus far, to always be found.

It is a simple thing, really, a sterling silver oval disc, approximately one half inch in length, inscribed on one side and etched on the other. Holding it, while it hangs from the chain, and gently rubbing it between my thumb and forefinger can sometimes provide a sense of solace. At other times, however, this simple action brings with it, even now, a sense of longing and dread.

Wearing it is almost a necessity; when it was lost, or on those rare occasions that I have put it in a drawer in my jewelry case, I have sorely missed it and felt “less than.” Its absence on my neck is like an irritating itch that cannot be scratched away. The anxiety is not the same as leaving home without your earrings. It is more like missing a piece of myself.

When I ordered my keepsake I had choices to make. I could have gotten it in gold or sterling silver and I could have ordered a diamond in the center of the gold. It came in two sizes, the size I ordered or one double that. I preferred the simplicity and lack of affectation of the small, non-bejeweled silver disc. I ordered several to give as gifts, though I haven’t seen the recipients wearing theirs. I have no doubt they are cherished and that they keep them safely tucked away; they just don’t share the emotional significance that I attach to it.

I never knew before seeing the brochure on a table that a keepsake such as this could be made. I was drawn to it immediately and inquired as to the authenticity of what it promised. It had such a silly name and yet I felt it offered me something I did not think anything else could.

“How do I know it would really be hers?” I asked the woman assisting me. “Oh,” she answered, looking me squarely in the eye, “we take the thumb print here and send it off to the company that makes these. You have my word that it would be hers.”

I turned my attention back to the selection of a casket, a task I found intolerable, but I mustered the strength to aid my son-in-law, my husband never letting go of my elbow as we walked through the showroom. We chose one, finished making the arrangements and left the funeral home.

I couldn’t stop thinking of the “Thumbie,” as it was called. Charms, pendants, keepsakes adorned with insignias or memorabilia the ads that I now see call them. But in this venue, the brochure offered only one thing: a three dimensional etching of the thumb print of your loved one on one side of the disc and your choice of inscription on the other side. It offered something of my precious daughter I could still have, something that was hers alone, that I could keep close forever and touch, as if holding her hand. I called the funeral home that afternoon and placed my order.

I have never been sorry or considered it silly or frivolous. I truly treasure this tangible iconic bit of my child. I reach for it throughout my day when busy and even at night, when I am deep in a mournful reverie. There is an attachment to what I feel is an almost physical positive reality in the wake of an unimaginable illusory nightmare. It is a part of me now, as its source was a part of her, and my family knows that it is to be around my neck when it is I who is laid to rest.