Those of you who have known me for a while probably know that I am a freak when it comes to jewelry. I tend to have certain items of jewelry that I'll wear almost all of the time. There was that Arabic necklace, the CTR ring, and most recently, it was a ring that had stones on its oval face shaped into a picturesque scene of water, with a mountain, a bird, and the sun.
Well, like the other items of jewelry that have been staples, I have had to say good-bye to the ring with the oval scene. I lost it yesterday. I am pretty sure that I lost it in either the gym or the bathroom of a high school, and because of that, I have little-to-no hope of getting it back.
One reason that I really liked this particular ring is because it was given to me by Manuel and Norma Gonzalez when I was serving as a missionary. In the area where they lived, our district had a standing invitation to their house for dinner every preparation day. Manuel and Norma met at the hospital where Norma was a nurse. It always seemed to me to be some sort of Florence Nightingale Effect-type love story. I could always tell that Norma loved Manuel. It was really uplifting to be around them because their relationship reeked of hard work and love.
Manuel was in a wheelchair due to an accident that had occurred earlier in his life. Still, every week he killed one of their chickens, and we had chicken for dinner. Every Wednesday night was always a time of good food, good conversations, and sometimes a little dinner mischief of sneaking spoonfuls of hot, hot salsa into the Elders' meals. One time, Manuel even invited us all to come earlier to the house to learn how to kill the chicken and prepare it for the meal. My companion and I respectfully passed on that opportunity, but the Elders all participated in the educational process. They didn't eat much that night. My companion and I spent a different preparation day helping Norma put border up in her kitchen, instead of killing chickens.
We frequently had soup, and they had these great soup spoons. One of the elders really wanted one of the spoons, so they got us all spoons. I still have my spoon. It sits in my room, and whenever I see it, I am reminded of this family. At the time, these really blingy gold name necklaces were all the rage. The same elder wanted one of those, so when the Gonzalez family went to Monterrey on a trip one week, they offered to bring us all back a gold name necklace. I wasn't very interested in taking advantage of their generosity, and I also didn't think that I would ever wear the necklace, so I declined. They insisted on bringing me something back, so I told them that I would accept a cheapo ring from off the streets because I like stuff like that.
I still remember Manuel taking my CTR ring to put it on his finger so he could get me the right size. His hands were so big and strong. My ring barely fit on the tip of his pinky finger. He had real man hands. They were hands that knew temptation, hardship, and tragedy, but they also knew of overcoming trials, blessings, joy, and the love of God through service to others. Manuel and Norma would do anything for the missionaries. If we needed a ride, Manuel was right there in his diesel truck, ready to get us. If we needed a meal, Norma was cooking up a storm.
Manuel passed away about a year after I got home from serving. It really tugs at my heartstrings to think of Norma and how she probably really, really misses Manuel and even to this day. And even though they probably don't realize how much I loved them and appreciated them (because I refused to do their weird handshakes or allow them to call me by my first name like everyone else), I was always reminded of charity and unconditional love when I looked at that ring. Not a convenient or easy love, but one that contained plenty of trials and lots of hard work.
So now my right hand feels stripped naked. I really miss that ring, but I am so happy to have received it from such great people. And, although I won't have the occasional reminder that the ring always granted me, I really believe that I will always have those experiences with them imprinted on my heart. Corny, but true.