It was a Tuesday afternoon when I felt the urge to clean out my closet. It was a perfect day outside with the sun shining through my windows and a breeze coming through the screen. My cat was perched at the end of my bed, basking in the warm Florida sun.
Days that have this ethereal feeling always make me want to clean the house, to feed into the cleanliness of the air and project it onto my space.
I rifled through my tiny and cramped closet, purging the clothing items I haven't worn in at least 2 years and tossing shoes riddled with holes into the trash. I was determined to get work done, to make my small closet feel a little bigger. I went into my task with the intention that a clean space would help me have a clearer, less cramped mind.
As I was nearing the end of my massive cleanout, I came across I purse I received two years ago still in its white cloth, protective bag. I pulled it out and had to take a thoughtful look at it for a couple of minutes. It felt like I was straight out of a movie when the protagonist finds an artifact of her past and can't fight the urge but to sit and ponder what it used to mean to her. The only thing my situation didn't have was a supercut overlay of every moment I lived since receiving the item. It was all so cliché, but I was immediately overwhelmed with emotion.
I received this purse when I was a sophomore in college. I had just turned 20 years old and recently found out I was granted an internship at CNN in New York City. I was ecstatic, scared, but above all else, proud. I could see my future pan out in front of me, and it was one I had always dreamed of. My godmother knew how emotional it all was, so to commemorate my success, she splurged for my birthday and bought me a Coach purse that acted more as a feminine suitcase than anything. It could fit my laptop, a notepad, a couple of pens, my phone and wallet.
It wasn't huge, and to be honest, it wasn't really my style, but I was thrilled. She knew I would want to look like the professional woman I craved to be as I scampered throughout my favorite city doing the thing that I loved most for two months.
It was the first birthday I got to share with my godmother. She had grown estranged from my mother when I was about 5 years old due to a nasty fight, and because of it, I also lost my connection with her. When I was 19, my parents, brother, and I attended a family gathering with about 40 people to celebrate my great-grandparents' 75th wedding anniversary, and my godmother was there to commemorate the marriage as well. My mom refused to speak to her, but my brother and I introduced ourselves, and after just a minute, she cried.
Because of how excited she was to see us, she put her differences aside and reached out to my mother who then accepted the apology and the two became best friends again almost immediately. From then on, I hadn't ever seen my mom happier, and I felt like the luckiest girl in the world because I basically had two moms.
With my actual mom having heart disease, my godmother became the only person I could talk to about how I felt through it all. She had an estranged relationship with her almost 30-year-old son who still resented her for her divorce with his father, so she was more than happy to fill another mother role for me, and a true one for herself.
She was my confidante, my ultimate supporter, and the person I would cry to most.
Regardless of how I felt about the design of the bag, it resembled a lot more than just leather, so I wore it proudly throughout the entire summer. It was the best summer I ever had and the experience solidified my dreams of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
When I headed back to school in August, I found out my godmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought hard for months and went to her chemo treatments like a champ. She was told she had beat it in November but had a double mastectomy nevertheless to make sure all traces of the cancer were removed.
Everything was looking up for a while through the holiday season, until March of 2017 when her cancer came back but in a different form. This time it was lung cancer, and there was no stopping it. I have never felt more frustrated to hear news in my life.
I kept wanting to blame doctors for not instructing her to do more chemo treatments, for them not trying harder to fight what could possibly come from the disease. She lost her battle on May 21, and to this day, I don't think I have ever cried so hard. I had already lost her once, and now I was losing her for good. She became a mother to me, and I never felt so loved by someone who had essentially just met the real me.
When I picked up the bag last week while cleaning out my mess of a closet, I cried. I cried for her, for our memories, and for the loss of future that I could have had with her. Quite frankly, I'm not sure it has gotten much easier since her passing.
Even after it goes completely out of style, when the black leather has faded and it begins to emit a strange smell, I'll never get rid of it. This 9' by 6' purse is filled with memories, my godmother's pride and my remembrance. It's a symbol of my past self, of the girl charged with dreams who revered her godmother as her complete idol.
This woman fought cancer with a smirk on her face and rode her Harley every day to and from work to show the universe nothing could stop her. She was determined to help herself, and through all her treatment, she continued to help others as a nurse. My Aunt Sue never took no for an answer, and she fought with everything in her to stay alive.
She was, and forevermore will be, my hero.