"Excuse me," the woman across from me on the GO train asked. "Would you mind telling me what that is poking out the top of your bag?"
I looked down at the bag at my feet and smiled.
I was on my way home from a farewell lunch at my former place of work on Friday and the object poking out of the top of my bag was a gift I'd been given.
"It looks a little like a pepper mill," she said. "But it's too thin for that."
It had been a tough week with the death of my mother on Sunday, the onslaught of taxol side effects taking their toll and all the multiple tasks that had to be done to wrap up my mother's estate and prepare for her internment. Of course a great deal of those tasks had been handled by my brothers and their wives, but still it had been a stressful week.
Getting out to my work for a party was a hugely welcomed change of pace. Especially since it was a party for me. A second and much more personal retirement party.
"Then I thought it might be the handle of a paint brush, but that would be the largest paint brush I'd ever seen."
It had been wonderful to see all my work colleagues again. We'd hugged and laughed and got caught up on our lives. Did I mention laughing? And did I mention lunch. And a huge retirement cake? And laughing?
"And now I'm stuck," the woman said. "I hope you don't mind my asking."
"Not at all," I said. "But there's a story behind it that you have to understand first."
So I told her about my finishing my last chemo treatment and ringing the bell at the hospital. How hundreds of people around the world had joined in ringing bells of their own. And how my colleagues at work read my blog. Quietly in the background.
And then I showed her the gift I'd received from them that was sticking up out of my bag.
The biggest, noisiest freaking hand held bell I'd ever seen!
Oh, and they also gave me a Best Buys gift certificate for enough to purchase a really neat telephoto lens for our new camera.
45 minutes ago