I stood at the altar about to experience the biggest moment of my life feeling pretty nervous. My friends and parents were anxiously waiting behind the scenes for the wedding procession to begin. So, there I stood, alone.
I looked over the gathered crowd, and in the second row, stood my Uncle Keith smiling right at me. The oldest of my dad’s two brothers, Keith was not only my uncle, but also my godfather. Seeing him with that huge, proud smile on his face, I instantly felt at ease and less lonely. As he gave me a wink and thumbs up, my hand subconsciously reached up to feel the tie tack pinned on my chest. It was completely hidden under my tuxedo jacket, but it was there. On this very important day of my life, it was there.
I was eight years old when Keith gave me that tie tack as a gift for serving in his wedding. I am the oldest grandchild, so for a long time my dad and his brothers were my playmates, and the men I always looked up to. I was ecstatic when Keith asked me to be one of his groomsmen along with my dad and other uncle. It was the just four of us. I was eight, and I was one of the guys.
Nothing could have made me happier. The day before the wedding, as is tradition, Keith gave all of his groomsmen a gift. I opened it to find the first piece of jewelry I would ever own. It was a simple gold tack and chain with a single stone in the middle.
It was simple, but in my eyes, it was the most brilliant piece of jewelry I had ever seen. I wore it proudly during the wedding, and after the wedding, I put it back in the box and placed it on my trophy shelf.
Over the next several years, I wore it every chance I had. I wore it to other weddings. I wore it to my first Homecoming dance. I wore it on my high school and college graduation days. And I was sure to wear it on my own wedding day. Every time I wore the tie tack, I could feel Keith’s pride in me. I could feel a connection. And this connection is what brought me a sense of peace and strength when I had to face one of the toughest moments of my life without him there.
The week after my wedding, Keith was diagnosed with cancer. It was already extensive and it continued to spread quickly. As a retired fire chief, he was buried with full honors. I was asked to give a eulogy. I found myself standing in front of my family and a room full of firefighters in full dress speaking about my uncle, my godfather, and my friend.
I stood there feeling very alone – this time with no smile coming from the second row. But, I reached down to my chest and felt the familiar tie tack pinned there. It instantly gave me a sense of strength and peace. I could feel Keith’s pride in me. I could feel that connection.
This unassuming piece of jewelry, given to me as a simple gift, has brought me courage and comfort in times of need. One day, I will give this tie tack to my son, and tell him about the great-uncle he is named after. Another connection will be made, and I hope it brings him strength and peace when he needs it. I hope he can sense the pride Keith and I feel for him.
Jewelry carries with it memories and emotions that last much longer and are greater than the moment it’s first shared. It provides connections to people and moments in the past that continue to build with each new generation…