In the early 1970s, my mother – then an adult and on her own – went back to school and received her Registered Nurse degree. In the graduation ceremony, each student carried a ceramic Florence Nightingale lamp with the student’s name and a little candle. The lamp sat on my mother’s bedroom dresser.
A few years later, our house burned down. It was a complete loss – total destruction. But when we poked through the rubble once it cooled, there was the Nightingale lamp, white among the charred, blackened mess, lying next to the melted blob that had been the dresser mirror. One little chip and a hairline fracture, otherwise almost unmarked.
It became a talisman for my mother, a symbol of “coming through the fires” of life. When she passed away, it was the one possession of hers that I made sure I held on to.