The List

My mom and dad had a great love story and he always gave her fantastic gifts, including some beautiful jewelry.

At some point during my senior year, my mom created a list. She told my sister, brother, and me that we needed to look at the list and let her know that we were okay with its contents.

I was not okay with it.

The list was all my mom’s jewelry, divided up between us siblings. She wanted us to look at the list, on our own, and let her know we were good with her choices. I remember it being left on her little desk area in our kitchen.

I was not going to look at that list.

To my teen self, looking at the list admitted that my mom was going to die. My sister looked and she was fine with it. My brother looked—no issues.

I refused to look at the list. I dug in my heels and absolutely refused. Which, sadly, made everyone angry. No one figured out that maybe, just maybe, a teenager wasn’t prepared to agree to the list because then it just might give her mom permission to die.

I was not going to look at that list.

My sister approached me with anger. My brother was frustrated because I wasn’t being cooperative. Our mom wasn’t asking for much, why couldn’t I look and give my agreement?

Why couldn’t anyone understand why I didn’t want to look?

I said I was sure everything was fine, there was no need for us to even look. Whatever she decided would be fine. Fine, just fine.

I am quite certain everyone thought I was being a difficult teenager. I guess I was. I’m also quite certain that no one thought it was a big deal. I still don’t understand how no one seemed to see my perspective. I wanted to be left alone. I didn’t want to read the list. I didn’t want to agree to inherit jewelry. I didn’t want my mom to die.

I didn’t say that out loud. No one asked. I felt like there was just anger and so, I read the list.

I remember my eyes blurring from tears as I unfolded the list and scanned it. I didn’t want to read it, I wouldn’t actually ‘read’ it. But, I read it. Then my mom asked if I was good with it. No! I wasn’t good with any of it. She explained that my sister would get her diamonds because she was the oldest. My brother would get her engagement ring and wedding band because he could give them to his future bride. He got all of her gold jewelry. I would get her birthstone jewelry, a garnet earring/necklace/ring set, and another ring that my dad gave to her when they were dating. I would also get her pearl necklace because my sister got one as a wedding gift from her husband. She would get the pearl bracelet, and I would get the earrings.

Fine. I looked, I nodded, I cried by myself. At the time, the feeling was that I couldn’t share my sadness or feelings anywhere at home because I would make my mom feel worse when she was already so sick.

That day, I remember realizing that even though no details were really shared about the extent of her illness, it must be pretty bad if she’s making lists. I was crushed, I felt a piece of my spirit breaking.

4 thoughts on “The List

  1. Karen, this makes me so sad. I want to hug that devastated teenager and let her know the amazing woman she is going to become.

    1. Thanks, friend. For years I have written and shared stories from both high school and my mom’s illness. I was challenged by an author I admired at his recent writing class to merge the two. It’s a Mod Life is the result.

  2. This just breaks my heart for you, Karen. You so badly needed someone to understand your pain – and yet you must have felt so isolated within your own family. What would have resulted within your family if people had just sat down and cried together, even screamed together…shared the pain…which now you are doing. Praying that the healing continues to come for you and others who have felt this same type of isolation and pain.

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