On the evening of a thank-you party for the launch of Colors of Goodbye, my oldest daughter Bethany presented me with a gift she had purchased on Etsy.
"I bought you something," she said, pulling me aside on the stairway as we headed to the car. She smiled her radiant smile and placed a small box in my hand. "You might find this fitting for tonight."
I opened the box. Inside lay a beautiful necklace made of two antique keys: one was a key to an antique wind-up clock and one was a key from an old typewriter. The typewriter key had been masterfully mounted onto the clock key, and a gentle bronze chain strung through its holes to form the necklace.
"The clock key reminds me of our childhood," Bethany explained, referencing the antique Gilbert clock on our mantel that had melodically chimed the passing of each hour of our kids' growing-up years. I had wound that clock once a week with a key much like the one in the small box now nestled in my hand.
"And the typewriter key is the '7&' key—which is our family's story," she continued. "We are the Vaudrey seven—and the ampersand represents how we we are living a both/and life."
Perfect! In one lovely Etsy search, my oldest daughter had found a gift that represents our family so completely: We are seven gives nod to the Vaudrey head count prior to my daughter's death. "Katie is gone, but we are still seven," Bethany was saying. Thank you, B. "And we embrace the both/and." Life without Katie—which has been an unimaginable loss—is still rich and joyful and beautiful. Yes. A thousand times, yes!
I lifted the bronze chain, slipped it around my neck, and hugged my girl. I make my living pounding away on typewriter keys but had never noticed the symbolism of the "7&" key. And now I will never forget it.
You may not be 7. You may be 3 or 5 or 1. But you can choose to be an "&." Each of us is invited to embrace the ampersand—the both/and of our lives. No matter what circumstances have been dealt us, our past is not the director of our future. Our loss is not the boss of us. We can choose to hit the 'shift' key and strike the ampersand.