The very first piece of jewelry my husband ever gave me was a chain bracelet with a heart charm. A darkened fleur de lis is centered on the front with the words "If ever I cease to love" engraved on the back. For those of you who are from where I am from you know what that really means. I cried when I opened the box that held this silver piece in it. I received this for Valentine's day five years ago. "If ever I cease to love" means something different for me than you may think. This phrase is synonymous with the city of my birth - a city that I love more than you may understand unless you have lived here. This bracelet came out in a popular jewelry artist's first collection after Hurricane Katrina. My husband knew that when I fell in love with him I would have to leave my home behind. This life would not allow for us to remain here no matter how much I may have wanted that. And so, while in Baghdad he ordered this bracelet and sent it to me. "If ever I cease to love..."
Panic - absolute panic ripped through me. "Where is it?!" I kept thinking to myself. I had my watch on - I never took one off without taking off the other. I tore the room apart, ran down the steps and started searching everywhere I had been. Then I started searching the rooms I hadn't been in because I wasn't thinking clearly anymore. My best friend jumped into the car with me next searching the seats, the shopping bags. I started calling the last place I had it on - they hadn't seen it but would look. She started the car (as I was a bit too distraught to drive) and we pulled into the parking lot to search the ground. It wasn't there.
We went home - me defeated while she was trying to remain hopeful. And then, it hit me. I looked at her and her face was the same. When we had left the store the bags on my wrist had gotten caught and I yanked at them a bit. As we were walking out the door, another woman came in. I heard her say, "Oh!" as I got into the car. We both watched her as she picked something up off the ground and as she went into the store to show her friend. It was one of those times that something seems so insignificant as it happens but your brains saves it for whatever reason. To torture me, perhaps. It was so very clear now - now that I knew my wrist was bare.
When I told my husband I was heartbroken. This bracelet meant more to me than I think I even understood before it was gone and my carelessness, my lack of vigilance, had caused it to separate from me permanently.
Early February my husband called me upset. He had planned to buy the same bracelet for me for this Valentine's Day (five years from the first time) but, because of the increase in the prices of precious metals, it was nearly three times the price he purchased it for.
"I was going to get it but..." he trailed off.
"But you knew I would be even more upset if you did," I finished for him.
My heart was broken again.
Yesterday I went into the store to make sure that the new price was not a mistake. It wasn't. As I just began to explain the situation the tears started falling and I excused myself. The little I got out was, "My husband gave it to me while he was in Iraq. I lost it while he's in Afghanistan." I couldn't explain any further - to say it like that weakened every part of me as I said each word. I didn't like how that sounded - I didn't mean to say it like that. I didn't know I would be that upset. I darted from the store embarrassed by my tears.
The sales girl tracked me down as I was heading back to my car with a card in her hand. It was the gallery manager's information. She asked my name and said to call on Monday and talk to her. When I began to walk away she touched my arm and said, "Please thank your husband for me." She meant it.
I almost didn't answer the phone. I usually don't answer numbers that I do not recognize and just wait for a voicemail. But for whatever reason today I picked up the phone. "Mrs Williams?" a voice I didn't know said. It was the gallery manager. "This may be strange but you weren't by any chance in the store yesterday?" I hadn't left my phone number. She found me to apologize and to offer the bracelet at the lower price. She repeatedly said "I am so very sorry." Her kindness and sincerity brought tears to my eyes (yet again). While I can't be sure, I am almost positive I heard the tear-filled tremor in her voice as well.
The kindness in people at times can be absolutely beautiful, pure, and good. She didn't have to track down my number and call me. She didn't have to talk to me two days before she expected my call. She didn't need to offer something that meant so very much to me at a price well below the retail. And I honestly didn't think it would matter as much as it does. She will never know how much that meant to me.
There is good in people. There is kindness. There is support. There is gratitude. To go above and beyond for another. It gives me strength in the weakest moments.
If ever I cease to love ...
"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown
"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.