My memory holds a story about a small basket being given to a baby at its naming ceremony. The basket, shaped like a strawberry, is woven with sweet grass and strips of bark from the ash tree. A fragment of the newborn's umbilical cord is tucked into it as a first offering. As the basket travels through life with its owner, it is filled with small things that are significant to the child, then the adult. When life ends, the basket is tucked away with its owner for one last journey together.
Here are some things that would be in my basket:
A small, smooth stone from the Ruidoso river, once warmed by the New Mexico sun. Another one from the cool Appalachian waters of the Greenbrier River that flowed by my grandparents' house.
A sun whitened snippet of my son's hair, a burnished chestnut curl from my daughter.
Pieces of the collars from every dog I've ever loved.
A transparent, papery chrysalis that once held the compressed rich colors of a Monarch butterfly before it emerged, dried it wings and as I watched, took its first flight.
A feather from the hawk who stayed in our yard on Ashland Rd. She left it in the garden, her own stealthy striped bloom.
A small twig from the tree that held the little frog that survived Hurricane Isabelle. He held on for dear life as he became airborne and sailed on his branch out of the tree and into the yard, living to chime another day. Perseverance on a stick.
A snowflake, if possible, from the big snow when I was eight years old. And a drop of rain, to remember how it smells when it first hits the ground after a long dry spell.
A napkin from the Pontchartrain Hotel, before Katrina came, smudged with tiny remnants of Eggs St. Croix and the promise of another day in New Orleans.
A turquoise pendant, a drop of sky against my skin.
The titles of some of the books that changed me.
I will have these things in my basket as I am met in the next world by those who recognize me by what I carry. They'll greet me with the sweetest of strawberries and I will remember the taste of my wedding cake on my lips and tongue.