the purse

Last winter I attended a bridal shower where they played the “purse game.” Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It’s an icebreaker where each woman describes her purse, its contents and what those two things say about her personality.

My purse was purchased from a sale table more than a decade ago and is a dull brown that matches everything—winter or summer. It has slots for credit cards and enough pockets that I can never recall which one holds my keys. The vast interior contains a jumble of useless junk and rarely contains anything useful like gum, Kleenex, chocolate or money. And so, my self-description was that I am practical (yes, yes, anyone who has seen Mary’s dress collection is laughing out loud right now) and extremely disorganized (this fact will surprise no one).

Shortly after this, I had a conversation with my adorable friend Emily who told me of the gorgeous purse she’d recently received as a birthday present from her mother. Far less vain that I, Emily said how much that purse meant to her; that it made her feel valued and beautiful.

Ever since, I’ve thought about buying a new purse—it is something you carry everywhere, every day after all—and when one of my favorites from the Boden catalog went on sale I snatched it up(which I still haven’t switched over to because I feel like I don’t deserve it). But I left in the cart the purse I really wanted: the ruffly, ribboned flower clutch.

Ridiculously expensive.

Incredibly impractical.

But oh-so-lovely.

It comes in several colors, but for me there was only one—ruby red. I’ll admit to admiring it over and over, imagining outfits to match it and evenings on the town where I would use it to carry just a few essentials… But really, how often do I go anywhere more exotic than the grocery store? And why buy a purse when I could buy Mary a dress or yet another memory card for my camera? I told no one of my ribbon purse obsession because it was a silly whim.

The day my mom told me she had cancer she mentioned that she was sending me a little present but it was on backorder and might take some time to arrive. I’d frankly forgotten about it. But today, after flying around the house, packing 8 people in two hours, finding a sub for my Sunday School class and care for our kitty (thanks Chelle!); I ran to the mailbox and found a box from Boden.

I’m not the sort of girl who leaves a package sitting unopened on the counter, even if the kids are in the car and someone is frantically honking the horn. So I tore off the annoying yellow plastic bands, ripped the packing tape and pried open the cardboard lid.

There, in the box, wrapped in tissue and encased in a green protective dust cover was the glorious, beautiful rose red flower clutch. Efficient mommy stopped; the floodgates opened and I began to cry and cry and cry. How did my mom know this secret desire of my heart? How extraordinary that it might arrive today?

We’re almost to St. George now. Mary is mumbling in her sleep and Gabe is draped across Ben’s lap—six books clutched in his hands. We’ll catch a few hours of rest there tonight before pushing on to San Diego in the morning. I don’t know what to expect in the next few days. Both my sister and my dad cried when I said we were coming. All day my mom has been drifting between this world and the next, speaking to her relatives who have passed on and then expressing confusion when she glances around her hospital room. She asked my dad if she could go now; if she could die and he replied, “No, Michelle and her family are coming.” She immediately perked up and agreed to stay.

I don’t know how she deteriorated so quickly. Don’t cancer patients linger and stay a bit longer? What about the years of remission that we claim as a right in the age of modern medicine?

She may still have those years; but I can’t risk it this weekend. I can’t risk today.

My rose red purse hasn’t left my lap on this long long drive and is now wedged firmly between my elbow and hip. I can’t imagine a future with it—a cheery evening where I might fill it with my keys and lipstick and a few wrapped chocolates—but for now it is simply beautiful. And that is enough.

May 22, 2009
May 25, 2009



  1. Nina

    May 23, 2009

    I’m really sorry. how sad and scary to be driving and worrying…I hope you can find some peace. be safe.

  2. Linn

    May 23, 2009

    That is the most beautiful, touching story I have ever read. Thank you Michelle. We are praying so very hard for your entire family right now.

  3. seven smiles

    May 23, 2009


    What a beautiful gift from your mother {purse+love}, and your Father in heaven {timing+love}.

    Safe journey.

  4. Chelle

    May 23, 2009

    love you so much.

    wearing my necklace. : )


  5. Claudia

    May 23, 2009

    Thank you for sharing that story. A tender mercy indeed. You are loved my friend. More than you’ll ever know.

  6. jess

    May 23, 2009

    isn’t it awesome how mom’s just know? i hope your family can find peace in knowing that whether she stays or goes, heavenly father knows what he’s doing. i just love that. big hugs for all…

  7. Kim

    May 23, 2009

    A beautiful purse for a beautiful woman. I’m thinking of you, Michelle!

  8. M

    May 23, 2009

    Oh, Michelle, I love the purse (nice purses are nice;-). And I love you. I will be thinking about you and praying for you this weekend at this tender time.

    I love the way that gifts can convey love, and mercy, and healing. And sometimes people are guided by the Spirit to buy exactly the right thing.–Emily

  9. queenbee

    May 23, 2009

    Oh Michelle…many prayers for your mom right now…and your whole family…HUGS!

  10. sarah

    May 23, 2009

    It’s the tender mercies in life that keep us going. Life is too short and precious and SO glad you made the trip down to see your sweet mother. Be safe.


  11. Jessica

    May 23, 2009

    Thoughts and prayers for you and your family.


  12. Tracy

    May 24, 2009

    Mothers are amazing. You, being one of the most amazing that I know. Safe journey, many prayers and big hugs to you and your family.

  13. Queen Scarlett

    May 24, 2009

    I have been coveting that same purse… in red. This is a beautiful purse. Wishing you safe travel and peace. Praying for you and yours. What a beautiful memory to keep from your mother.

  14. wendy

    May 24, 2009

    Oh Michelle. You’re in my heart. Take care~

  15. Seagulljaap

    May 24, 2009

    I am sending cups of love, joy, peace, and happiness for you and your wonderful family. The Newmans love you!

  16. jennie w.

    May 24, 2009

    Michelle (((hugs))). Take care. The little tiny things like a purse can often be the most magical.

  17. Kelsey Willden

    May 24, 2009

    I could read your blog for hours. You writing is inspired. I almost cry on every other post.
    You are a beautiful and talented writer. We love you. Thank you…

  18. Reluctant Nomad

    May 24, 2009

    Oh michelle. I’m so sorry to hear about your mom. And so glad that you’ll get to see her. I hadn’t read this before right. now. So please disregard my email from earlier today and feel of my love from far away.

  19. Rockelle

    May 25, 2009

    drive safe!
    My brother passed away after only two short months of cancer. He was diagnosed Nov.5th and died Dec.29th….1998. It still seems like yesterday. My older brother said they didnt have the money or time to come for Christmas. But they ended up coming a few days later for a funeral. How sad. I am glad you are going and are given a chance to say “I love you”.

  20. Jess

    May 25, 2009

    My sweet friend, I’m thinking of you and praying for your mom. May your visit with her be a sweet one.


  21. m_and_m

    May 25, 2009

    Michelle. I don’t know what to say, except I’m sorry.

    And this is just such a tender post.

    You are in my prayers. I love you so much.

  22. martha corinna

    May 25, 2009

    I’m sorry Michelle.

    I’m thinking about you.

  23. Jennk

    May 27, 2009

    Thinking of you, Michelle.

Comments are closed.