Hoard of Secrets

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At night I lay next to her, sleepless, staring at the pulse bobbing in the cove of her throat, my own heart pounding to this steady yet uncertain rhythm. Later I put a pearl in the hollow so I could more easily see this proof of life. Though I dreaded that she would stop breathing, I was relieved that she would die of natural causes and not from suicide.

View all New York Times newsletters. For as long as I can remember, my mother talked of killing herself. The threats came at least once a month, sometimes day after day. She would utter them in front of me, my brothers, anyone within earshot. On a few occasions she made an attempt. I remember seeing her lean out an open door as our car sped down the highway, and we, her mute children, sat in the back.

Several times she ran into busy lanes of traffic with flailing arms. In my memories of adolescence there are also flashes of a knife, a cleaver, a pair of scissors.

Event Information

The reasons my mother wanted to die were many. It could have been something my father did or didn't do. It was often something I said or didn't say.

Kids who hoard get very emotionally attached to the things they save, often things others discard

Whatever it was, we were supposed to make amends before it was too late. Once I refused to say I was sorry. Then I was really sorry. I didn't realize until I was in my 30's that her suicidal impulses most likely started when she saw her own mother kill herself.

She was only 9 when this happened.

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And thereafter some part of her would always remain the 9-year-old who believed that the only escape from any kind of unhappiness was the route her mother took, an immediate departure from this world to a heavenly form of China. As long as she was alive, her mother's death was an everlasting punishment to her. Whenever bad luck visited us, she asked aloud whether her mother was angry at her. Was this a curse? Though my grandmother killed herself in , she was a presence in my young life, a ghostly presence.

The Staffordshire Hoard

Ever since I was 4, my mother had believed I could see my grandmother. That was because like most children I had complained about a bogeyman under my bed. Instead of reassuring me that this was only my imagination, my mother asked me to pass along messages.

She was convinced my grandmother had taken me as her confidante. I soon learned not to mention what scared me, and my mother did not press too much for me to talk to the ghost.

Marshall pleads guilty

That was because my father, an engineer, was also by avocation a Baptist minister, and the only ghost he believed we should talk to was the Holy Ghost. But when I was 15, my father and brother died, both of brain tumors, and my mother began urging me often to ask their ghosts why this had happened. She had me sit before a Ouija board, then noted when the room grew cold, when telltale pings and creaks signaled that the spirits had arrived. She was always hoping for one last goodbye, one more message of love. Pragmatic woman that my mother was, she would also seek their advice on the stock market.

With our fingers poised over the planchette, she would ask, ''Should I buy I. For our mother's memorial card, our family selected the photos that captured her best: Grinning as she cooked with a gigantic wok. Smiling shyly for my father in the early days of their courtship. Staring solemnly as an 8-year-old adorned in mourning clothes for her grandmother, Nyah-Nyah. My mother had always been a natural Shanghainese beauty and quite vain and snobby as a result.

She bragged how spoiled she was as a child because she was ''pretty beyond belief.

My nose was too broad, my skin too dark, my lips too coarse. I had long recovered from the wounds of those remarks when Alzheimer's began to erode her logic and memory. One day, my mother announced that I looked just like her. It was not too late to hear such praise. As I studied the photos with my sisters, I saw that I did indeed resemble her. She and I had the same crimped chin, the wrinkling caused by holding back what we felt but could not say. In her case, it was secrets and hopes. In mine, it was protests and desires.

Secrets of the Third Reich

For many years we had been unable to say, ''I love you'' to each other. During the last hour of her life, our family murmured to our mother that we loved her very much and were sad to see her go. We whispered to her all the things we would miss: her dumplings, her advice, her humor.

To myself I mourned: Who else would worry about me so much? Who else would describe in explosive detail what might happen to parts of my body if I was careless? Who would be frank enough to warn that my husband might exchange me for a younger woman unless I forced him to buy me jewels so expensive it would be impossible for him to leave both me and the gems behind?

My mother did not speak during those last four days, but with her final breath, a long release of an exhalation, she uttered a faint sound, a single sustained note. I had to bend my ear to her mouth to hear. I was the only one who heard it, but I don't think it was my imagination. To me, she sounded surprised.

After my mother died, I began to rewrite the novel I had been working on for the past five years. I wrote with the steadfastness of grief. My editor and dear friend, the great Faith Sale, would have called that grief ''finding the real heart of the story.

To find that heart and repair the bones, I had to break them into pieces, then start to dig. And so I rewrote, remembering what scared me: the ghost, the threats, the curse. I wrote of wrong birth dates, secret marriages, the changing place one has in a family, the names that were nearly forgotten. I wrote of pain that reaches from the past, how it can grab you, how it can also heal itself like a broken bone. And with the help of my ghostwriters, I found in memory and imagination what I had lost in grief.

Writers on Writing. This article is part of a series in which writers explore literary themes. Previous contributions, including essays by John Updike, E. Please upgrade your browser. It is the largest collection of early medieval English gold and silver ever discovered. Although fragmented and damaged when found, there is nothing comparable in terms of content and quantity in the United Kingdom or mainland Europe.

There are more than significant objects found in fragments of mainly war gear, which combine to a total of nearly 4 kilos of gold, 1. The greatest mystery of the Hoard remains unsolved as it is unknown who owned and assembled this extraordinary treasure. But experts believe it could have belonged to a high-status individual, possibly an elite warrior or someone from the royal household.

The Hoard is largely composed of fittings stripped from swords and other magnificent battle gear, reflecting the written record of fierce warfare between rival kingdoms in the seventh century, and the growing power of the kingdom of Mercia in which it was found, under the militarily dominant pagan king Penda c.

Though most of these objects were in use during his long reign, no definite association between the Hoard and any ruler can be claimed; however, their wealth and quality unquestionably show that the treasure comes from an extremely high-status context. The elaborately decorated sword-fittings, gilded silver helmet, and other superb trappings of the battlefield have now been identified as coming from different regions, representing the forces of some of the warring kingdoms competing for domination across England.

The Hoard probably contains material from East Anglia and Northumbria, kingdoms which suffered significant defeats at the hands of Mercia.