Earlier this summer, I had reason to show Akemi the jade ring that belonged to her paternal great-grandmother, Lillie Chew Leung. Before she passed away a number of years ago, Po Po Lillie gave this ring to my mother-in-law to give to me. I remember Po Po Lillie wearing this ring, seeing it on her hand as she held the hand of her husband Gung Gung Hin, and I have always felt honored to be its current steward.
Jade has mythic, mystic significance for the Chinese. Family pieces, like Po Po’s ring, are handed down through the generations. Jade jewelry – often carved pendants, bracelets, or earrings – are carefully selected and presented at special occasions such as births, weddings, and anniversaries.
Over the years, I have heard the belief that as jade is worn, its color deepens as it absorbs good energy from the wearer. It’s also thought that in times of need, the jade will lighten to release this energy to protect the wearer. Whether or not one believes that the shade of jade will actually change, it’s generally considered good luck to wear jade, especially “family” jade.
Retrieving Po Po’s ring from safe keeping, I realized again what a beautiful piece of jade it is, an oval cabochon of rich dark green characteristic of old pieces, with great liveliness and translucence. I thought again of how, many times over the years, Bing had intended to reset this jade into a pendant so I could wear it, the piece being too big to be a ring on my hand. But there were always too many expenses and not enough time to follow through on such a nice thought. In a burst of carpe diem, I took the ring to the Kamei family jeweler (yes, my family has its own jeweler; doesn’t yours?) and left it with him to create the necklace.
As timing would turn out, the jeweler left me the message that the pendant was ready right before I started chemo a couple of weeks ago. “You’re going to be really pleased,” he said. I hustled out to the Valley to pick it up, figuring I would be sidelined from such errands over this chemo month.
And he was right. The jade looks even more beautiful in this setting, now encircled with small diamonds. I was pleased; more than pleased, really, and confident that Po Po Lillie and Bing also would be pleased. That I could tell Akemi and then Ellen, my mother-in-law, how excited I was with how the pendant turned out gave us something pleasant to talk about in the midst of relaying cancer-related details.
Ellen said, “You must wear it when you go to chemo for good luck.” I have, every day. I’m not superstitious, but I do believe that family relationships are eternal, and that our ancestors and other departed loved ones look out for those of us living a mortal life. I’m happy to attribute protective and restorative powers to Po Po Lillie’s jade, particularly as I was delightedly surprised with how good I felt the rest of Friday and yesterday, after feeling not-so-good all week. This morning, though, I’m extraordinarily annoyed to watch a proliferation of bruises bloom in various mysterious places on my arms and legs and to realize that I must have caught a cold, the one thing I wasn’t supposed to do.
So tomorrow, back to USC Norris for more. Fashion incongruity though it may be with my comfortable casual clothes, I’ll be wearing jade with diamonds. After all, there’s no reason not to have thousands of years of Chinese beliefs and family “chi” along with me.