The pink, glittery bauble caught my eye and froze my feet in their tracks.
Soft rose hues of fabric overlapped a darker, richer pink, and the whole ball was flecked with silvery diamantes. It hung delicately from a graceful, glittering thread, slowly turning to catch the light and throw it back in coloured sparkles.
It was a perfect match to the dress.
Slowly, I took in the tall pine, the basket of Christmas decorations on the table, and the small sign propped against the basket: “Remembrance Christmas Tree – Auckland Hospice.”
Two sweet old ladies seated at the table smiled amidst the ignorant and harried passers-by. I too had hurried past this Christmas tree in the mall countless times, but one brightly-coloured decoration had halted me in my tracks.
The towering tree stood like a beautiful and silent sentinel, its branches laden with baubles every colour of the rainbow. But what made this tree special were the little twists of paper affixed to each decoration and handwritten with a message or prayer.
Suddenly, I knew what I must do.
I dropped some change into the tin, took a piece of white paper, and slowly lifted a pink, glittery bauble from the basket. As I gently cradled the trinket in my hands, the discordant sounds of last-minute Christmas shoppers and shouted bargains became a background hum.
Yes, the little burst of colour nestled in my palm was just as pretty and dainty as the dress.
I stared, mesmerized, at the pink globe shimmering in my hands, struck by the memories that flooded my mind. Strangely, they were not grey memories of the cancer and death that had slowly taken Sarah’s earthly body. Instead, I was flooded with colourful thoughts and moments of beauty and life.
My heart lifted remembering a delightful walk around a lake with Sarah in her wheelchair. We had laughed and talked and revelled in the beauty of the scenery and the joy of spending the day with friends.
I smiled thinking of her continual and infectious laugh, and her mega-watt smile. I chuckled at our girlish escapades and games, whispered secrets, silly moments and sweet, supporting prayers. I pondered on her deep love and care for others.
With sadness, I remembered the last time I visited Sarah in the Hospice. Even then, as she lay ravaged and pained by disease, her heart ached for those around her. She held my hand in her cold, brown palm, and tried to whisper comforting words. “Are you OK?”… “It’s alright.”… “I love you.”
Sarah’s life was not long on this earth, but this did not stop her from touching hearts and blessing souls by the hundreds. Even now, when I had just thought of Sarah, I had been struck again, not by her sickness, but by her warm concern for others and her deep joy in life and God.
From her sickbed, my friend taught me to genuinely care for others, find joy in each day God gives, and live each day to the full. Sarah taught me to love life and people, and to leave many precious memories of that love…
I smoothed out the slip of paper and slowly penned my message:
“Dearest Beautiful Sarah, you and your whanau are not forgotten. Love always, Emma.”
I tied my note to the shiny pink bauble and gently hung it on the tree. A few salty tears escaped my eyes, then I quietly walked away with my last memory…
Sarah lay in the coffin, surrounded by her dearest family and friends. She was smiling peacefully, gently, free forever from pain and death, beautiful and sweet, and wearing a dress that must have been a special last wish – a pink, shimmering dress that glittered with hundreds of sparkling diamantes.
Dedicated to my beautiful friend, Sarah, who embraced God in person on April 19, 2010.
© Emma McGeorge