I Lost My Dead Grandma's Al-Anon Medallion
and nearly had a panic attack
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I lost my Grandmother Elvira’s Al-Anon medallion two weeks ago and I cried when I realized it.
She received the coin back in the 80s when my uncle Greg was struggling with addiction and later went missing. For a long time, I kept the medallion on my nightstand. The bronze coin had a butterfly with the words “Let Go, Let God” on one side and the Serenity Prayer on the opposite side. I’ve always gravitated towards butterfly imagery. As corny or cliché as it may be, I love what butterflies and caterpillars represent. A death. A rebirth. A cycle. A change. When I see Monarch butterflies, especially when I see three at once, I pretend they are my dead grandmother, dead grandfather, and dead uncle. I smile. I thank the universe. I move on.
Several weeks ago, I started carrying the coin with me since the world has felt so very difficult. I needed the literal and figurative weight of it. I would place my hand in my pocket and run my right thumb over the coin like it was a worry stone. I would take it out from time to time and look at it. A reminder to breathe, to let go. A reminder of my Grandmother and the love she had for her son Greg. A reminder of Greg, his addiction, his disappearance, his death. A reminder of loss.
My uncle went missing when I was two-years-old. He packed up all of his belongings in his car and left a note that read, “I’m going on an adventure. Don’t try to find me. I’ll contact you.” He was a world traveler and highly educated, so my dad and grandparents initially assumed he left the U.S. My family never heard from him again.
Twenty-four years later, thanks to DNA testing of a femur bone, we found out that he had died shortly after he went missing. He killed himself in Clearwater, Florida near Sand Key, not far from where he had been living. Amongst police, he was known as John Doe Sand Key. His remains had been in the Pasco County police cold case room all that time. My grandmother died before ever learning what happened to him.
And so, when I realized I lost this Al-Anon medallion, I felt waves of sadness for my grandmother and for her never finding out what happened to her baby boy. I felt sadness for Greg, for my grandfather, and for my father. I felt sadness for all people struggling with addiction and mental health issues. I felt sadness for so much pain that isn’t mine and that is mine. Individual pain. Collective pain. Present pain and past pain. And I guess that is life. That is belonging to a collective. That is the price of loving people. That is the price of living in this world.
I suppose it’s silly to cry over a lost object. Objects, material possessions only have meaning because we give them meaning. Grasping onto an object, a person, a place will only end in heartache. Impermanence is life. I continue to learn this over and over again—no matter how painful and uncomfortable it feels. I try to visualize my palms relaxed and open: ready to give, ready to receive, ready to let go. I try to loosen my grip mentally and physically on objects, people, and places.
And when I look at nature, feel my feet on the ground, breathe, I realize that’s all any of us truly has—and that actually feels really good.