The story is embedded in my heart. The sentiment carved into my soul. The innocence of wishing to “gift” another with an item so extraordinary that it will be remembered and spoken of for years to come, re-told for decades by children who witnessed the giving of one woman who had in her possession a solitary item of value.
My grandmother had left for me in her will, a ring. Not perfect, nor the most valuable of diamonds, but a sparkling representation of love none-the-less. Emerald-cut, and graced on either side with matching baguettes, the ring captured the eye of strangers and caused my heart to breath a sigh each time I viewed it.
I have no idea how much it cost my grand- father, how many days of labor and toil were added together to amass the price of this one lovely piece, but I wore it proudly, and waltzing through my days feeling rich for its company.
Several people, including a jeweler, had offered to buy the ring, but my answer was always a resounding ” No, thank you. This is my only treasure.”
For many years, my grandparents love never left my hand, never felt the finger of another, and never missed a night of being slid underneath my head as I fell asleep.
Christmas was knocking at the door. It was the winter of 1992, and I had the wonderful privilege of being “Momma” to five children, wife to one exquisite husband, and care-giver to two aging in-laws whose destiny, we did not know, would not include another Christmas. Nine of us, living in a large, but drafty old farm house. Nine of us pursuing our dreams, and trying hard to give one another space in which to pursue them. Nine of us at the table every day. Nine of us laughing, loving, and lifting one another toward our unique destinies. Nine of us.
The appointment was supposed be routine, but the word, “cancer” cut through the air that day and rearranged our lives. That day we found out that children might not outlive their parents, and parents were very often at the mercy of a word.
” Why?” ” WHY ?” “How could this happen to us?” We were kind, benovolent, giving, and in love with life, all nine of us. It made no sense whatsoever. Who would hate us so much as to impose such a destiny on the likes of us? Who? Why? How?
She was three, and could babble like a magpie, she held all of us captive in her warm grey-blue eyes, and our hearts were tangled up in her merriment. She was the joy machine in our lives, and she was the one with the lump the size of a small egg in her armpit.
So we learned of potentialities and prognosis, treatments and the expected course of cancer in a three year old. We learned that insurance will only grant you a small reprieve from the wolf at the door, and we learned that life is never the same for having heard one word.
We pulled ourselves up by the bootstraps, and dug deep into our faith pocket searching with wiggly, grasping, fingers for a miracle.
” Mrs. Gibson, I am sorry, but unless you can raise a portion of the surgical expense and show in good faith that you are able to pay at a reasonable rate the remainder of your bill, we will not be able to see your child any longer at this office.”
Those words slashed open my motherheart that day, and created a callous that to this day I am still sloughing from around my heart.
That day I rued having married for love rather than money. That day I broke into a million pieces. That day my faith in the decency of mankind slipped through my fingers and landed at my feet with the words, “Please, but you must,”and ” I will somehow find a way.”
The door closed behind me and I walked to car with a check for five thousand dollars. The jeweler who had offered to buy my grandmother’s ring had made good his promise to buy the emerald-cut beauty, “if times ever got hard.” Indeed, the times were hard, and my husband’s layoff at the mines had coincided with the hateful vedict that had changed the atmosphere in our little world of nine. I sold the only thing of value that I owned to save the only thing I valued..my daughter’s life.
The medical office receptionist just smiled and said, ” I had hoped you would find a way, so many people come here expecting to be treated and we never see any effort on their part to pay for their services.”
We paid an awesome price in so many ways, in tears, in prayer, in hope, in dread, in terror, and in gratitude, eventually.
The grey-blue eyed one will graduate from high school this spring. The “c” word rarely graces our conversation, and the bill that could not be paid was long ago “paid in full.”
The sacrifices of my grandfather prepared a way for the gifting by my grandmother. My wearing of the gift captured the eye of the jeweler. The jeweler masked the poverty of the empty-pocketed ones and caused the gift to open the door to healing, while appeasing the doctor with a miracle in his pocket.
That beautiful emerald-cut ring now sits on another’s finger. I am sure. The hand that wears it knows nothing of its journey. The heart that sighs when glancing at it knows nothing of the anguish that precipitated its removal from my finger. And the pillow it rests under each night knows not the price one will pay to save a child they love.
And so the legend is forever in our story book, the day that Momma sold the Magi-cal ring and got a Magi-cal miracle in return.
There has never been another ring placed on that finger, there has never been an attempt to replace it. It is irreplaceable, irretrievable, and it’s love is irrevokable.
I am certain that when it was purchased it was meant to be forever a family heirloom, passed for generations from one lovely daughter to the next, but the magnificence of the magi-cal gift resides in the soulful long-lashed grey-blue eyes of a young woman who knows the story well. The story of the price that love will pay to “gift” another.