Sometime over the course of the day, my mother’s engagement ring had slipped off my finger. The realisation dawned on me, transporting me out of real time and into the thousand little moments that preceded that moment. I was no longer where I was. Instead I was searching for that ring, replaying my movements in my head. How could it have gone? How had I failed to notice? Why had I not felt it slip away? Why was I not able to hold on?
“My ring’s gone,” I said, looking all around me, scouting the floor in the hope that it had just happened.
I loved that ring. My mum knew I loved it and said I should have it to enjoy even though she is still very much ‘alive and kicking.’ “What’s the point in waiting until I am gone and not seeing you have the pleasure of it,” she said. So for years I’ve worn her dainty little diamond with pride, enjoying the simplicity of the design.
Dad never seems to mind that I wear mum’s ring. “You should have it,” he would say nodding in agreement with my mum. That’s my parents for you. They don’t have much and everything they have they give away.
In the night I stirred, feeling the naked space on my hand. Again the reality of the missing ring clutched at my heart and I thought how foolish I had been to begin wearing mum’s engagement ring with my wedding ring when the diamond had fallen out of mine. It was only the slightest little bit too big and it didn’t slide off too easily. I had tested it a few times to make sure.
It’s just a ring, I consoled myself. It’s not a life; it’s just a piece of jewellery that can be replaced. I rolled over, desperate for sleep but sleep would not come. Instead I found myself thinking about life, about decisions, about letting go and about holding on.
In the past few years I’ve allowed myself to let go of so many things. I remember way back in the beginning, just after Sam was diagnosed, I thought I could do it all. I like to think that I am high capacity, that I can juggle, keep all the plates spinning like Lumiere in Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I can sing, do tricks, and keep a smile on my face, never letting anything crash to the floor or break. Of course this mindset is nothing more than an illusion, ‘smoke and mirrors,’ my friend would say. The truth is, I can’t balance everything. My whole world is up for review. Slowly, carefully, consciously, I am editing my life.
“Sometimes there are way too many words on the page. The reader needs to breathe, to pause in the white spaces, to find a place in the story for their own context and refection.” My writing teacher coaches me with my book in the same way I feel the whisper of God on my shoulder, coaching me with my life. He speaks to me in pictures, making me laugh. He shows me a magnificently built house but the scaffolding still surrounds it. “No need for that stuff now,” He prods me, “that was just to get you to where you are today.”
We get so used to the scaffolding don’t we? It makes us feel safe. We worry that life may all fall apart if we remove the construction around us, all those pipes and boards, so we let them stay. We’ve got so used to living with ugly that we’ve forgotten the vision we once had for our life. Down deep, tucked under grief, there’s a little girl with grand dreams.
As I feel for the lost ring, I also feel deep regret over the latest prognosis. I am grappling to come to terms with the fact that Sam may lose her hearing as well. “I can’t keep getting back up,” I say to myself knowing that God might be listening. Hoping He decides to intervene. Then He takes me to another place beyond the house with the scaffolding to a wide open space on the headland. “Lie down,” He says. “Feel the firm soil and the soft grass beneath your back. Let the warmth of the sun caress your face. Watch the clouds roll by. Come like a child at play.”
It’s so long now since I rested. I’ve been in battle mode and I’ve forgotten how. Resting is not responsible; action produces a result, that’s my mindset. Yet I am too weary to fight and the scene before me draws me. There is blue sky and cumulus tinted with light from the sun. I give in, I stretch back, I warm to the idea.
“What do you see?” He asks.
“Fat baby arms, healthy body, fiesty Sam.” It’s the way she was and my heart breaks.
“Now what do you see?” He asks again as the clouds change form, stretch out, become thin.
“My daughter now.” I cry.
“What do you want to see?”
And between my tears I see the scene repeated in the room of the ENT specialist, and I see him lean in to look through the tiny black funnel he has wedged in her ear. I see him reach above his head and pull down the special glasses and I watch as he pushes back his chair. “There’s no scar tissue there,” he tells me and it feels like a dream.
So I look into the clouds again, settling in to this lesson with my Father, grateful He knows I’m a visual learner. I wait. I wonder if it might be possible to hear those words when we go to see the doctor again. The clouds roll back ever so slowly until the sky is only blue and the sun has changed position. I have been there a long time watching and waiting. I drift off to sleep. For the next few days I began to speak what I saw.
“Next time we see him the scar tissue will be gone,” I tell my daughter. “I think that’s what God showed me.” I tread carefully hoping this isn’t hyper-faith, hoping I really did see and hear.
Then the day comes and I hold my breath as he starts the regular routine of the check up. I watch. I am silent.
“Well, its much better.” I hear him say.
“How much better?” I ask. “Would you say 60%?”
“Much better,” he says acting calm, like it happens all the time. “There’s no scar tissue there.”
I pay the bill, I make the next appointment and I press the button for the lift.
“Its amazing, Sam!” I remark but I’m not really surprised. Delighted, elated but already informed. Like my Father is teaching me to listen to secrets, to know His ways, to hear His voice. Out on Victoria St, I look up. The sky is blue and full of puffy clouds. Adrenaline rushes through me. I can’t wait to be back on the Northern Beaches, to lie on my back on the headland. To give thanks.
When we arrive home I change quickly into walking gear. I stride up the hill with such fervour, getting to the corner store just in time to buy an iceblock before they end trading for the day. It’s mid-afternoon and the sun hasn’t got long left. It waits for me as if we have an appointment and when I find the best spot, I sit for a while. I suck my iceblock and contemplate Moses. For the last few weeks I’ve been studying the prayers of the Bible but found myself returning again and again to Exodus 33. I study it out and God shows me that the tent of meeting is not a place filled with people. It’s a place to which few want to go. “It was often just Moses and my Spirit in that tent. The rest of the people stood in their doorways, not eager to venture out of comfort and security.”
I ponder this; thinking how much I too crave comfort now. Why is the road so long and so hard? I don’t really have answers or hear a response. Sometimes God doesn’t speak. Somehow I get the sense that His heart might be breaking too, wishing we would come. Wishing we would wait and give Him time so He could show us how to live. I lie back; I listen to the waves crash and the L85 bus straining to get up the hill. I look up and it was just how he showed me the other night. Fat cumulus changing shape until the sky is a sea of blue and the warmth of the sun is gone for another day.
I return home to the mundane of folding laundry and there by the sink something glistens in a pool of water that has settled in the plug. It’s my mum’s ring and I remember hand washing all my woollens. It must have slipped off in the water. It’s not lost after all. Sometimes it’s not the end, it’s just God’s way of getting our attention.