My mom had a set of pink suitcases that she used for travel. Why pink? Because it was easy to spot when most luggage in black, blue and brown. My mom was a pretty smart woman.
I don’t remember much about these suitcases before a certain point in time.
I remember retrieving them from the totaled car after my mom had a car accident when she returned from a 2 week cruise with a friend. It was a quiet, humbling moment when I took the pink suitcases out of what was left of the car and put them in my own car. In typical mom fashion, each suitcase had gifts for my children and me.
When it became apparent that my mom could no longer live independently, the pink suitcases accompanied her on the bumpy road that first year. From her apartment to the hospital, to the skilled nursing home, back to the hospital and then to the board and care where she lived successfully for many years.
Somewhere along the way the two bigger pink suitcases had served their purpose and were retired but the carry-on pink suitcase continued as her companion when it was needed. It traveled to her new assisted living facility and then to the rehabilitation hospital with the hope of traveling back to the assisted living facility. This was not to be. Instead, it accompanied her one last time to a small board and care location where she would pass three months later.
On the day that my mom passed, the social worker came to visit and brought me back her things in the little pink suitcase.. As it sat in the entryway of my home, I remember having a fleeting thought that what remained of my mom’s journey was encapsulated in that little pink suitcase. Yes, the suitcase contained clothes, framed pictures and a sweater that to this day I can picture her in. It’s true that it did represent her travels and the potholes she experienced along the way, particularly during the decade-long dementia journey. But, it didn’t define her or her life. It didn’t contain the memories, experiences, hopes and dreams and aren’t these what truly make us who we are?
I’ve thought a lot about the pink luggage and especially the little pink suitcase over the years and as I moved to our new home, it came with us. The truth is I will never use it and I just can’t bear to part with it. So with me it will remain as a symbol of a life that through the good times and the challenging times- was purposeful and well-lived.