Saturday, December 12, 2015

Elephantine Luck

Denis & Marilyn
Forty five years ago, my Uncle Denis gave me a jade elephant pendant on a gold chain. I adored my Uncle Denis and knew he was about the coolest person I would ever meet. It was 1970 and he was ultra-hip. He lived in Yorkville, a very bohemian part of Toronto, and he had a super mod girlfriend. My grandmother wasn't happy that her son was 'living together' with his girlfriend, but she accepted it. Why? Because Denis could get away with it; he was that cool.

Christmas presents from Denis were always extra special and unusual. I didn't know I wanted a jade elephant necklace until I opened the box from him - he had found me the perfect gift. And, I wore it just about every day for the next 40 years.  I remember a friend of mine found me in a crowded library because of that necklace; my hair and hands were hiding my face, but the necklace was clearly visible.

I had the belief that the elephant brought me luck. I  ALWAYS wore it when I traveled because I believed it kept me safe. Exam time? Never took it off. Childbirth? You bet I wore that necklace into the delivery room! Then, on our first trip to India, I learned of the elephant god, Lord Ganesha. He is one of the best known and loved Hindu gods - and is the Lord of good fortune! So, of course I felt an immediate connection.  His image was everywhere in India and I took lots of photos. Before we left, I purchased a small gold charm and began to wear Ganesh around my neck as well.

Lord Ganesha and the Jade Elephant with a broken trunk
Shortly after that trip to India, the jade elephant's trunk broke when I dropped the necklace on a marble floor.  I was really upset that the necklace was flawed, but I took comfort in the fact that Lord Ganesha's tusk is also broken - so somehow those two pendants would have a connection. There are a few interpretations as to why Ganesha's tusk is broken - but my favorite is where Ganesh breaks his own tusk in order to use it as a pen so that he could continue taking dictation from a guru.

 Over the years, friends and relatives have given me gifts of elephants. My mother especially loves to find elephant themed gifts for me. I adore then all. My house is full of elephants! You can't even get past the threshold without meeting the first one.

A few years ago, I gave the jade elephant necklace to my daughter, Emma because she was going through a rather difficult time. She was living in the Annex in Toronto, interestingly a hop, skip and a jump from Yorkville - from whence the necklace had come. It was hard for me to give up my lucky charm - I had worn it for such a long time and so far it had proven itself worthy of my faith. But, Emma is the woman I love the most in the whole world and I figured she needed it.

And, guess what? Even without my jade elephant, my personal talisman, I continued to live a charmed life. I was even able to fulfill my lifelong dream to ride an elephant in India! So, maybe it's not the necklace that holds the key - maybe it's just the belief.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Hospice Visit

Tonight I visited a friend who is dying. I suspected that her condition was incurable, but did not know for sure as she is an intensely private person. However, she recently moved from her apartment to a local Hospice facility.  That was my clue.

Our relationship began about 20 years ago - we worked together.   During our work-life together she was always outspoken, candid and tough minded. We got along well even if we didn't always see eye to eye. She did not mince words or suffer fools and talked smack about people all the time. In other words - my kind of work buddy.  After her retirement we continued to meet for lunch where we would inhale Italian food and gossip about people that we knew. She would love to tell long tales (although she'd often begin with "to make a long story short"). The best stories were the ones that started with "between you and me" as I knew these were particularly juicy - but not necessarily confidential. Interestingly, she loved to know details of others lives while maintaining a certain aloofness about her own. 
Her stories would often ramble off into other directions as she thought of other details or connections. But, she would always come back to the heart of the tale.

I entered her room tonight with trepidation. She didn't know that I was coming, and she didn't know that I had figured out that she was dying . So, I was hoping she wouldn't be angry with me for coming without an invitation.  But, there were others in the room, so it eased my entry. She was sitting in bed looking rather frail  -  but still cutting a rather imposing figure.  She was trying to eat some melted ice cream and told me that they hadn't served any Italian food to her yet. She was cogent... sometimes. She would use the wrong words for objects and repeated words and phrases that didn't fit the conversation. But, during her lucid moments we laughed and she was completely aware of what was happening.

I was so happy to see that she was in a facility that was warm and inviting with a lot of artwork that I knew would please her. She has very elegant taste and furnished her apartment with objets d'art from her travels and books .... lots of books. She appreciates things like silk scarves, cashmere sweaters, leather gloves and old jewelry. We reminisced tonight about some especially fine soap she had purchased many years ago in Italy .

Tonight she was clothed in a hospital gown - but her nails were done a lovely soft shade of grey/brown. I had brought some very fragrant hand lotion and rubbed it into her graceful hands. She inhaled deeply; I knew she appreciated the scent, and I was happy I had thought to bring it.

As I left I leaned in for a big kiss on her cheek and told her I was ignoring her privacy issues and was going to tell people her new address. She didn't object.