Right now, I am standing at a coffee shop, trying to write about my mom, for you, for myself, to honor her today. She died at about 2:30 a.m. on December 4th a year ago. Tomorrow, I will tell you more about those last days. For this day, I have a story for you. The gal behind the counter here just said, “I like that ring on your left hand.” I assumed she meant the owl ring, but she said, “No, the silver one on your first finger.” I thanked her and said, “Would you like to hear the story about it?” She said, “Yes, please!” This is what I told her:
A few weeks before my mom died, she took my sister-in-law, Lisa, and I upstairs to go through her jewelry box. This act, more than many others, made her descent (ascent) much more real. She appreciated beauty, saw it as evidence of God’s loveliness in our world; and this was reflected in her (rockin’) fashion sense, of clothes and jewelry. So that she was giving jewelry away meant that she was letting go of earthside beauty, in anticipation of the beauty of heaven.
Her glee sparkled through telling us the stories of each bauble, some semi-precious, most simply pretty. We considered who she wanted to have what, who would like which necklace, considering our sister-in-law Krissy, and my daughter as well. (Krissy died a week after my mom, in a freak, ugly accident on the way back from my mom’s burial in Tennessee, so she didn’t get to enjoy mom’s beautiful jewelry for long.) Then she picked up this little silver ring, turning it this way and that, a mischievous smile on her face, her head tilted in the sun shining through the window.
“Ah this,” she said, putting it back down. “It’s not worth much, though you might like it, Jene’.” I asked her why, and she said, “Well, I was fourteen–” and my heart dropped into my stomach and my breath held itself still.
“I was fourteen, riding my bike down the street in Mishawalka, Indiana, and I noticed a sparkle on the road. So I stopped and picked up this ring. It’s probably not silver, but I’ve kept it.” As she spoke, my head bowed and my hand wanted to grab the ring. We moved so often growing up, no roots, few heirlooms, almost no connections to family history that to have a piece of my mom’s history right in front of me rolled over me like a wave of time itself.
I barely squeaked out, “May I?” as I reached tentatively for it. She said, “Of course, Jene’, if you want it.” I couldn’t choke out what I felt, that this little stainless steel ring was worth more than the diamond, more than the beautiful baubles that I wear, that this ring would not leave my finger for the rest of my life. And it hasn’t. It is the most precious of the things my mother left to me, evidence of her child’s heart. Curious, noticing hidden worth, delighted with beauty, no matter how simple.
I wear her sparkle on my hand and in my heart, always. To have its beauty shine to another especially on this day is to have her smiling next to me, present.