Since my mother’s death seven years ago, I’ve worn her beautiful star opal ring nearly every day. I’ve only taken it off to clean it, when my hands were too swollen, or when surgery necessitated it. I get compliments on it often; even better that it’s my favorite color – blue.
The ring was a present from my father when they were teenagers – Mom wore it as long as I can remember. Though she wasn’t overly sentimental about things, it rarely left her hand for 40 years. My aunt once told me that Mom treated it as an engagement ring, and they teased her about that. Mom and Dad were high school sweethearts, so I imagine it served as a promise ring of sorts. Neither are here today to tell me the whole story. Oh, how I wish I would’ve asked!
In 2010, Mom took the ring off for her colon cancer surgery; she passed away unexpectedly days later. When I found her ring in a saucer on top of the microwave, even in my stifling grief, I smiled a little. “Just like Mom,” I thought, the ring not in a special place, but a spot where she’d see it and remember to put it back on. I promptly put the ring on my finger – I am the only daughter, so it was my rightful inheritance, right? – and it’s rarely left my hand since.
The Star Opal – Imperfect Beauty
What I didn’t know about star opals was just how rare they are. The pattern on my ring is subtle, but when the light catches it just right, you can see the stunning six-rayed star.
And in my research, I found that unlike the star effect in other gem materials, “the star in opal is caused by diffraction of light from faults or imperfections in the packing arrangement of silica spheres.” (Source: GIA, Gemological Institute of America)
Did you get that? The beauty of the ring is found in its imperfections! Its faults diffract the light!
Growing up, my mom protected my brothers and me from adult worries and fears, making our childhood carefree – as childhood should be. As I got older and transitioned from daughter to friend, my mom opened up more about her struggles and weaknesses. Not to burden me, but to be transparent, teaching me even when she didn’t realize it.
She told me she wasn’t a good student in school – though she loved books and history more than anyone I’ve ever known.
She was the only one of her siblings (she had six brothers!) who didn’t have a college degree – though the School of Life had given her a master’s in experience and wisdom.
She worried that she hadn’t done enough with her life – though her three kids could testify that she came to every game, every play, every music performance possible. She was the loudest cheerleader, I guarantee it!
You see, she has three kids and three grandchildren who were able to stand at her funeral and tell story after story of a life well lived. For 11 years of marriage, she had my dad, who saw her value and strength even as a love-struck high school girl. She had my step-dad, married 22 years, who loved her dearly, though they were vastly different. She had a church that counted on her for music, drama, and just plain fun. She was available, 100% there in all aspects of her life.
And like her precious star opal ring, Mom’s brokenness – widowhood at the age of 29, her perceived lack of an education and a career, her simple, but full life in a small town – reflected rare beauty.
Merriam-Webster defines diffraction as “a modification which light undergoes especially in passing by the edges of opaque bodies or through narrow openings and in which the rays appear to be deflected.”
Mom used her narrow openings – the places of grief and weakness – to motivate her to love fully and well. To serve the God who never failed her, to love the church and its people. She wasn’t perfect, but she was precious.
Mom, I’m praying my faults can reflect the Light just like yours did. Happy Mother’s Day. I’m so thankful that you were mine.
Mom wearing the star opal on their wedding day in 1972
Thankful for the 32 years I had with my mom – growing from daughter to friend
Wearing mom’s ring as a daily reminder to love well