I was desperate to find something for my friend. I knew that nothing material could possibly ease the pain that the past few weeks (or months or years) have wrought, but I needed to DO something.
I tried to bring her supplies when she was stuck in the house during the storm. She refused. I tried to arrange for plowing or shoveling as the snow came down, but she demurred. I tried to steal her away for a few hours the other night, but her husband had not yet returned from his business trip thanks to the tangled flights across the country. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what to DO.
I needed to find a way to say I love you. I needed to say, I’m here. I needed to leave her with a tangible reminder that she’s not alone.
I had twenty-five minutes to find it – this token of support and love. Such is my life. I don’t have the luxury of time, so if it was going to happen, it was going to have to happen quickly.
I scoured the shops along our town’s main street, looking for inspiration. A candle perhaps? A gift certificate for a manicure?
I wandered into the day spa, looking for something pampering – a reminder to be gentle to herself, to take care of HER – but nothing struck my fancy. I walked out. It just didn’t feel right.
I walked by countless storefronts before being drawn into a particular jewelry shop. I’d only been in once before, but somehow I knew that this would be the place.
I immediately found a necklace that I thought she’d like. I never would have chosen it for myself as it was far more her style than mine. It was a chunky pendant hanging from an oxidized silver chain. The pendant was essentially a cage – heavy bars of silver surrounding a gorgeous translucent pale-blue stone. I grabbed it, thinking perhaps my search would be over.
I rolled it in my fingers, watching the bars swirl around the stone – guarding it, keeping it safe. I liked that. It’s her heart, I th0ught. The bars will keep it safe.
As soon as the thought was complete, I dropped the necklace back onto its display. No, I thought. Emphatically no. The last thing I want to tell her is to wall her heart away behind metal bars. That’s not what this is about. Walling ourselves off is a journey to nowhere. Bars might keep pain out, but so too they keep EVERYTHING out. So goes joy and pride and love. No, the necklace wouldn’t do.
In the next case I found another necklace. This one had a small pendant engraved with a single, simple word. “HOPE.”
I picked it up and set it in my hand. I turned it over, then over again, thinking.
Hope. Yes, perhaps this was the one. She needs to be reminded that there is – that there ALWAYS is – hope. That even in our darkest hours, it is hope that allows the light to return. Hope ensures that it WILL return. I loved it, but something was missing. I didn’t know what, but it just wasn’t right.
My friend had just suffered a devastating loss. I needed to acknowledge that pain. Simply telling her that it would get better wasn’t enough. I needed her to know that it was OK to hurt. To feel it. And to move on when SHE was ready to move on. Somehow HOPE felt selfish, pushy. She might not be there yet.
And then I found it. It was sitting on the shelf right below HOPE, which made perfect sense. It was a small silver pendant on a delicate chain. The pendant was nothing but a simple, hand-wrought circle – not quite perfectly round. The face of the circle had been scored. Whatever had been dragged across its surface had left behind deep, criss-crossing scratches. The grooves were inconsistent, both in length and depth. They were at once chaotic and calming.
I held the circle to the light and watched it glisten. It was solid yet delicate, smooth yet scored. It was stunning. And in that moment, I knew I had it.
The very heart of the pendant’s beauty was in its painful history. It was the grooves and scratches that caught the light. Had it been perfectly smooth – or perfectly round – it wouldn’t have been what it was. It would have lacked depth and character and singularity. It would have been without its very essence – its beauty and it’s strength.
Just like my dear friend.
Just like each and every one of us.
Beautiful not despite but BECAUSE of our imperfections. And always – always – far stronger than we appear.