NEWBURYPORT — For years, Prospect Street resident Bethany Groff neatly stored in a small case her precious memories in the form of jewelry collected over a lifetime of important events. In times of sadness or stress, Groff would turn to these memories and wear them.
Last month held one of those moments as she flew to Texas to attend her boyfriend's father’s funeral.
“Kind of a sad occasion, so you really want to have things that are special to you,” said Groff, who manages Historic New England’s properties in Newbury and Amesbury.
During the flight someone made off with her small red wallet containing her favorite jewelry in the world. None of the pieces, save for a diamond ring she purchased for her 30th birthday, was especially valuable. But the memories associated with the acquisition of all the pieces were priceless — the purple pendant given to her by her high school friend, the silver choker worn by her mother during her prom and the blue glass beads that popped off when she ran.
“I was more bummed out that I just lost my jewelry; it was more that all these pieces had a story,” she said.
Groff said she believed the case was stolen during her flight to Texas although she has no definitive way to prove it. An inquiry to her airline hoping the case may have turned up somewhere proved to be a dead end. After returning home, she tore through her house for three days hoping to find the case, to no avail.
As a way of coping, she wrote a poem describing her loss and last Monday posted it on Facebook, something she has done from time to time when confronted with sadness:
“Goodbye, purple pendant in pewter inlaid
From Shelley Quitecontrary, who I met in ninth grade.
Goodbye, garnet necklace with silver rope chain
From Ad Rock, with love, though the price was insane.
Goodbye, blue glass beads that popped off when I ran
I wore them every day because they were from Pam.
Goodbye, silver choker from my college beaux’s mom
Who had worn it herself at her ’70s prom.
Goodbye black strand necklace I wear with THAT dress
a gift from a friend who was moving out west.
Goodbye to the jade drop, the onyx and pearl
from my JimJam, with all of the love in the world.
May you wind up as gifts from a lover or friend
Your time with me, sadly, has come to an end ...”
“Facebook can be a great big hug from all your friends,” Groff said, adding posting the poem allowed her to let go of the pain.
Within days, Groff’s loss was the talk of her many friends who began a campaign to replace the lost jewelry with sentimental pieces of their own. On Friday, one of her neighbors stopped by her home and dropped off a case filled with jewelry donated by her and others.
Groff said she was floored by her friend’s generosity. An added source of pleasure was that all of the items had stories of their own and that none of her friends attached their names to the items they donated.
“A wonderful, incredible group of people,” Groff said.
Groff said her friends could have purchased comparable items at a million different shops, but the fact that they donated items from their own collections made the gesture even more special.
“I don’t know if I would think to do that. It was such a generous thought,” Groff said.
Groff said the random acts of kindness went beyond the new jewelry case, as some of her friends gave her separate items, things they thought she would like to wear. The generosity of others inspired Groff to look beyond what she believes was the impersonal thief who made off with her jewelry, to the unmistakable good of others.
“The person who stole my jewelry didn’t hurt me as a person, but the jewelry that came back to me is a loving gift, so I definitely gained more than I lost,” Groff said.