The Things We Leave Behind

The things we leave behind disappear from our lives — but not the world. This week, make one of them the centerpiece of your post. —Weekly Discover Challenge

1953 Mar. 18
Newscopy: “LEFT BEHIND–When a man, tentatively identified as Ezra Bourland, of Larkspur, leaped to his death from the Golden Gate Bridge today, he left his car parked on the span. In the back of his 1950 Chevrolet coupe were these items: a pair of work shoes, a bottle of port wine, a paper-bound book called ‘I Should Have Stayed Home.'”. [1]

I worked at the Golden Gate Bridge for 15 years as an electrician and I have seen my share of “things left behind”. Backpacks, briefcases, bags and personal items of clothing left on the sidewalk served as evidence that someone was once “here”, and now gone.

An inscription scribbled on the brim of a sunhat with magic marker—Today I am 1,000 months old—offers an insight into the story of a life that ended in suicide a few months later.

A torn fragment of a paper bag with a rambling omen of the Diamond Project is left under a windshield wiper of a parked car. Its self-destructive author part of a growing number of lost, suffering, and misunderstood people.

Love locks, graffiti, and candle-lit memorials all stand as examples of our need to be remembered, and of our desire to hold on to the memory of those most important to us.

earringThe most intriguing item that I found on the bridge is a very simple faux-pearl earring. It is nondescript except for three raised numbers on the top of the French Hook, 925. Jeweler-speak to indicate that it is Sterling Silver. I found this piece of jewelry one day when I climbed over the sidewalk rail near midspan to take a measurement for a run of conduit that we were getting ready to install.

One earring, midspan… I looked around to see what else (who else?) might be nearby. I was alone. There was nothing of a personal nature in the vicinity.

Why one earring? How did it get there? Did someone drop it from the sidewalk? Perhaps it was left behind by a suicidal subject?

Some questions beg to be answered and sometimes we are better off not asking. I put the earring in my pocket. When I got back to the shop I placed it in my tool drawer and when I retired I brought it home with me. I kept it as a reminder that sometimes we will have questions that never get answered.

Over time this earring has become my bellwether: On my good days I look at it and think that someone was brushing her hair and didn’t realize that the earring had fallen out of her ear lobe. On days when I’m not spiritually fit I can see a tale of heartache and pain, one where the only thing left in someone’s life was to leave a memento and jump.

Glass half-empty or glass half-full? It is our choice and we can make it multiple times a day, if need be.



[1] San Francisco Public Library, Historical Photograph Collection:

  13 comments for “The Things We Leave Behind

  1. Susan Hinchcliffe
    January 22, 2017 at 6:41 PM

    I was moved by your thoughts. What have i left behind? Will what i have done be of any good to anyone. I love you.


  2. October 6, 2016 at 11:00 AM

    Fabulous challenge, I have to give this some real thought…I’m looking forward to see the submissions from others.


    • October 7, 2016 at 5:26 PM

      Thanks, Charlie. Please let me know if you submit anything.


  3. July 22, 2016 at 7:28 AM

    Allan, she was brushing her hair. I’m sure of it. Now, if she only comes across your very excellent blog post to reclaim her earring. That would be grand.


    • July 24, 2016 at 6:03 AM

      That would be the ending to all endings, Bruce—I like it.


      • July 24, 2016 at 4:08 PM

        Hold on to it for her, Allan.


      • July 24, 2016 at 9:35 PM

        I’m not sure if I have it or it has me, but it’s with me in the meantime.


  4. The Poetry Channel
    July 22, 2016 at 2:48 AM

    Great observations and the reflection on the earring. Made me think beyond the wearer to the journey from a grain of sand. Excellent piece.


  5. July 20, 2016 at 3:47 PM

    What’s with this glass thing, Allan??? 🙂 So many stories in these left-behind items, hopefully more about simple loss than total loss.



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