The Crystal Punch Bowl

“The Crystal Punch Bowl,” Ensign, Dec. 1988, 40

The Crystal Punch Bowl

My mother’s beautiful crystal punch bowl was to be my inheritance. As a small child, I looked forward to the two holidays of the year when this lovely, glittering piece of tableware was brought out cautiously to grace the long table in our dining room.

My mother would carefully wash it, dry it, and fill it with gallons of ruby red, bubbling punch. The ice placed in it floated like huge diamonds in a vermilion sea. All the points and crevices of the crystal would shimmer and shine, reflecting a kaleidoscope of tiny red lights that danced around the room.

For years, I entreated my mother to make me the heir of this beautiful creation. She agreed, she said, because I seemed to be the one who found the most pleasure in the crystal bowl. Each time we used it, I cautioned my mother and sisters to be careful with “my inheritance.”

Fifty-three years ago I became a happy bride with at least one very beautiful possession. Each Christmas and on my birthday my lovely punch bowl graced my dining-room table, and everyone exclaimed over its beauty.

The babies came, one after another, until there were nine. The punch bowl continued to be a matchless symbol of beauty. There was not much else in our house that was very valuable or beautiful, and I gave strict orders that no one but me was to wash the bowl.

The Christmas of 1982 was the first without my beloved husband, and the second without our precious daughter-in-law who had been killed just eight days before Christmas the year before. The day had been a very emotional one, with nostalgic memories of both these dear people whose passing had left such a void in our lives.

I brought out my historic punch bowl, now eighty-five years old, for the family party on December 26. It reminded us of happy memories of past Christmases.

Afterward, my two granddaughters and I were cleaning up the dishes when some of the guests began to leave. I was just taking the bowl to the kitchen to wash it, and I stopped what I was doing to say good-bye. One of the girls placed my bowl in the sink and ran hot water into it. The bowl shattered into a hundred pieces!

My granddaughter turned deathly pale, and I nearly went into shock. The room was totally silent. I thought, “Not my beautiful punch bowl!”

I was devastated! There was no holding back the choking tears or the overwhelming sense of loss.

I found comfort in the arms of my son who had lost his wife. He knew what the bowl had meant to me. He also knew, and reminded me, that this was just a material thing, something for this life only.

“The bowl was a thing of beauty, Mom,” he said. “But it was not forever, like Dad is, or my dear wife.”

In a few minutes I composed myself and turned to my granddaughter. I asked her to smile, and told her that I was sorry she had to suffer over the loss.

The next day, after several hours of deliberation, I came to realize that while the bowl had been beautiful, even more valuable and precious were the gifts that my husband and I had been given for the eternities—each other, our nine children, thirty-six grandchildren, and to date, nine great-grandchildren—each one a “thing of beauty, and a joy forever.”

I called my granddaughter and assured her that the bowl wasn’t really important. We still had the things that truly mattered.