About Loss

This post comes from a weekly memoir writing prompt provided by The Red Dress Club:  Write a post that either starts or ends with the words “Lesson learned.” Word limit: 400 words.


Sitting on our front porch watching the movers load the van with our belongings, I lamented those things that wouldn’t be coming with me in our move halfway across the country.  Three weeks before, burglars had broken into our house and stolen all my jewelry.  I could describe each piece in detail, telling you who gave it to me and for what occasion.  The tiny silver heart etched with my initials in dainty script letters my grandfather had given me for my seventh birthday,  an ankle I.D. bracelet my brother gave me when we were still in high school,  the gold locket my father gave my mother before he went to the South Pacific during World War II with their pictures inside and a love note engraved on the back.

Numerous other pieces were stolen, all with a story, and so many from people whom I loved dearly and are no longer here.  I had been excited about our move, quite an adventure for us at our age, but the recent burglary had left me angry and sad.  As I was watching the movers carry load after load from the house to the van, my neighbor came and sat next to me on the bench. She told me how much she was going to miss having us in the neighborhood.   Her son Taylor had been killed by a drunk driver the year before.  My husband and I had gone to their house and sat with them and let them cry and talk.

I asked her how she and her husband and other son, Mike, were doing.  Mike had been a student in my English class a few years before, and I knew how he had worshipped his older brother.  She said they just take one day at a time and try to get through it.  I said, “It’s hard to believe Taylor’s been gone for over a year now.”  She replied, “He’s been gone fourteen months, two weeks, and four days.”  A mother would know.  We both sat there in silence, thinking about the emptiness in that statement.

After my neighbor left, there was a little voice in my head that said, “You want to talk about loss?  Now there’s loss!”  I felt ashamed that I had let my loss drag me down for weeks when my sweet neighbors had to endure a lifetime of missing Taylor.

I can’t say that I don’t think about all those stolen jewelry pieces and get sad sometimes and angry because of the way they were taken from me, but I don’t dwell on it and now have no trouble putting it into perspective.  My neighbor, without knowing it, taught me about loss.  Lesson learned.

About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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39 Responses to About Loss

  1. judithhb says:

    Thank you Susan for this. We do tend to dwell on lost material things and it is only human to do so. But the loss of a loved one (as I know) far outweighs anything else.
    But don’t feel that you can’t mourn the loss of your jewelry – mourn and remember the people and the reasons why they gave you the jewelry. Remember too my quote – ” Circumstances
    or people can take away your material possessions …….but no-one can ever take away your precious memories”.
    I hope the move goes well. Judith 🙂

    • comingeast says:

      Great quote, Judith. You have so many that are good to remember. This move was nearly three years ago, and it did go well, and we are very happy here in Virginia.

  2. Amy says:

    II have a similar experience of losing my jewelry. The “fourteen months, two weeks,….” is a heart-breaking story. That picture of you sitting there with the mother will always stay in my heart, a lesson learned.
    Thank you for sharing the story.

  3. oldereyes says:

    Sorry to be so late reading this … it’s my kind of post. Some years ago, as Muri and I were getting ready to leave on vacation, I found a beloved cat mostly eaten by coyotes on the lawn. This cat had been Muri’s angel during her breast cancer treatment and she took it hard. When we reached our destination, I called my business partner to tell him about the cat. The same night, his brother and sister-in-law had been rear ended by a semi on the freeway and killed instantly. Perspective. But losing the cat still hurt. We have to grieve what we need to grieve … otherwise, it brings us down. Perspective helps, though. I really do love your posts.

    • comingeast says:

      Wow! Your business partner suffered a terrible loss that night, for sure. But you’re right; losing that beloved cat hurts, too, and we have to be allowed to mourn the things that make us sad and not feel guilty because of someone else’s tragedy. Good comment.

  4. yen says:

    Oh, what a touching and heartbreaking post at the same time. It definitely keeps things in perspective. I liked the way you put all the pieces together from the jewelry theft and the way you weaved it into the story about the loss of a child. This post touched me to the very core.

  5. Leah says:

    Very powerful post. Thank you for sharing!

  6. The way your story unfolds is just beautiful! You have a marvelous way of weaving people and their feelings with events. So many feelings…so much emotion. It all brought tears to my eyes.
    Your story reminded me a quote by Tom Stoppard. “Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.”

  7. Beautifully written and so touching. Even though we may lose those things or loved ones precious to us, we still have our memories of them. Thanks for giving us a wonderful lesson today. Lesson learned.

  8. angela says:

    This is so poignant! Of course you have the right to be upset about the jewelry, and of course the loss of a child is the most devastating thing imaginable. I love that you addressed that the most important loss in the burglary had to do with the memories behind the jewelry, not necessarily their monetary values.

    Beautifully written. I feel like I learned a lesson reading it as well.

  9. Wow. You’re right, that’s real loss. It does help keep things in perspective, and I’m happy to have a healthy family with two kids moving on with their own lives, as they should — as hard as it is sometimes on a day to day basis for me!

  10. winsomebella says:

    I enjoy reading your writing prompt posts. This is my favorite.

  11. Emily says:

    Heart wrenching. I really felt for your loss at the beginning of this post. The stories we keep and the objects that hold those stories are precious, but then — the loss of a child. I just can’t imagine. This was a beautifully-written, powerful post.

  12. There is no way to measure or judge a loss. The stories behind the jewelry you lost are what made that jewelry so valuable, and it broke my heart to read that someone callous and clueless swiped them and took those special connections away from you. Surely, the loss of a child is the worst thing a person could ever endure, but your heartache counted, too – not to mention the sense of vulnerability and fright that comes with having your home invaded. I’m terribly sorry for all the loss in this post.

    • comingeast says:

      It was a great prompt and the moment I chose to address it was so obvious. You’re not the only one who has said I deserve (not the best word) to be sad about the jewelry theft. But whenever I think about it, I remember my neighbor and just tell myself to stop dwelling on it and move on because it’s nothing like the loss of a child. I think that’s the lesson I learned. Yes, be sad and angry, and then get over it. It’s not so important in the scheme of things. Thanks, TSC, for stopping by and commenting. I always love hearing from you.

  13. Oh what great loss it has to be! Don’t want to ever go to that place that your friend is in now. I’d rather die first. Thanks for the reminder to put things in perspective. My loss is little in comparision.

    • comingeast says:

      Don’t I know it! Taylor was actually home for the weekend from Fort Hood before he was going to be shipped to Iraq. His parents were so worried about him going to war, and the danger was just a few miles away from a young man who fled the scene and didn’t even stop to render aid.

  14. Loving, lilting, gentle. Just when we feel so right in our Woe Is Me, someone who really deserves it but refuses to gives us a shake. What a great story, well done. Came from TRDC linkup.

  15. Galit Breen says:

    This is breath taking. And humbling. I loved when you described the details of some of the jewelry- really drawing me in, pulling at my heart strings.

    But the karate chop with your neighbor? Ouch. Point taken. {Thanks for that.}

  16. so poignant, glad i stumbled across your blog

  17. jen says:

    I love this story because it teaches an important lesson, every loss is personal and important.

    I lost two kids in an accident 5 years 23 days ago and you’re right a mother knows! And I absolutely wanted the people around me to share their lives and loses with me, not to treat me any differently because of my loss, that I disliked.

    If you were my friend the loss of you jewelry would have been important to me if it was important to you. It would have not been something to been measured up to my kids deaths, that’s just not the way it works.

    And as far as gaining perspective because of Taylor’s death; I think that’s something we all gain when we lose young people even when their our own children unexpectedly, it’s a gift.

    • comingeast says:

      Oh, Jen, your comment was so especially meaningful. I am so sorry you lost your kids. Your perspective on loss was not what I would have expected in your situation, so gracious to others who haven’t lost nearly as much as you have: ” …every loss is personal and important.” It made me feel that it was okay to be sad and angry about the loss of my jewelry, heirlooms I no longer have to pass to my children. You are a remarkable person.

  18. huffygirl says:

    This one made me cry CE – how touching. Yet, I don’t think it’s wrong for you to mourn the loss of your family jewlery which holds many special memories for you. Loss comes in many levels – from superficial to serious, and having the wisdom to work through it is part of processing loss.

    • comingeast says:

      Thanks for understanding, HG. Nothing that was stolen was incredibly expensive; it was the memories they held that devastated me. And I have nothing to pass down to my own daughter and granddaughters now. Still, they meant more to me than they ever would to them, and what does it all matter in the end anyway? But losing a child, OMG. You never get over that.

  19. I try to always keep things in perspective as well. I am sorry you did lose your precious keepsakes though, Susan. I’ve come to think that it’s okay to feel a bit sad for material things as long I don’t dwell on them and remember that they are just things after all. I suppose that’s only normal for us humans to cling to them and the memories they give us. Last year a friend of a friend of mine lost her two young daughters in a sudden house fire and whenever I get down about anything, I remember those beautiful sweet girls and how precious life is. If I wake up and my family is around me and healthy, life is good. That is all I need.

    • comingeast says:

      Well said, Mama. I can’t imagine how I would ever cope if I lost any of my children or my granddaughters. I don’t know how people do it. And losing two girls? Unimaginable.

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