Part 1: The dream was always the same, and always in November.
The front door opens to a blinding white light and, gradually, I see my father. I find myself being lifted high in the air, spinning around, continually seeing my father’s face, laughing, eyes shining. Then he puts me down and he backs away, back into the light, and disappears. That’s usually when I awaken. I desperately try to go back to sleep to make the dream last longer so I can say something to my father, keep him around a bit longer, but of course it never happens. He died when I was a little girl, killed in a car wreck.
It was the week of Thanksgiving 1983 and the first time I’d been home to Texas since moving to California. I left my home state the year before to pursue an acting career and although I was getting lots of small parts and commercials, like most young actors I was also waiting tables between auditions and acting classes. I loved California and had made some great friends, but I was a very young girl and missed my family, so this trip home was especially sentimental for me.
While unpacking, I noticed my mother’s cedar jewelry box on a shelf in my room. As a little girl I loved looking through it, always finding new treasures, so I made some room on my bed and began digging around. After sorting through the top layer I lifted the middle shelf and, near the bottom, I found a lovely gold ring with a green stone that had a gold “C” in the center. I’d never seen it before; it was large and obviously not my mother’s, but since green is my favorite color, I put the ring on my index finger.
Later that evening in the car on our way to dinner my mother noticed the ring and asked me why I was wearing it. After apologizing for not asking first, she said, “Of course it’s okay, but that’s your father’s high school ring–did you know today, November 22nd, is the day he died?”
A strange sadness poured over me. He had died when I wasn’t quite 5 years old so I had never really known the actual date of his death–but then I remembered the dream I’d been having for many years, always in November. I told my mother about it.
She smiled. “The night he died you were crying and angry that he was leaving the house without you. So he picked you up, spun you around until you stopped crying, and then he left. Later that night is when he died in the car crash.”
Part 2: Many years later, back in California, I was at another impasse in my life.
After surviving a disastrous marriage I was now a single mom, juggling my work as an actress and my job in retail to stay ahead. I had been dating Mark Murrell several years and was ready to get married–but he wasn’t. Although his career in the fashion industry had thrived in Texas it simply didn’t translate in California and he wanted to be financially stable before even considering taking on a family.
One afternoon I was having lunch with my producer friend ‘Chick’, complaining about my stalled relationship. Chick noticed the gold and green ring on my index finger and asked if he could hold it. “I know this sounds crazy, but I just had a vision,” he said. Holding my ring and closing his eyes, Chick said, “I can’t see his face, but I see you with another man. It’s definitely not Mark; this is a businessman, a guy who wears suits to work every day. I see you both dressed to the nines, looking very happy, and driving away in a green Jaguar.” He gave me back my ring and we both had a good laugh about it.
Three years later, Mark and I got married. He had since left the fashion industry and was now a successful insurance adjuster with Lloyds of London. Chick was one of the attendees and after the wedding he pulled me aside and, laughing, asked if I noticed the green Jaguar in the chapel parking lot. At first I had no idea what he was talking about or why he was asking–but then I remembered Chick’s ‘vision’ while holding my father’s ring.
I felt all the color leave my face as I told him, “Mark wanted to rent either a white or black Jag for us to drive away in today; he called every rental place in LA but all they had left was this green one…”
Part 3: November 22, 2014 once again played a huge part in my life when I found myself in the hospital with my son.
For three days Jason was hooked up to tubes and monitors, being tested in every way possible and ultimately, on November 22, he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
Sitting in the hospital room that night I thought of my father and his ring which, sadly, I had lost when we moved to our first house in 1998. Feeling completely helpless and small, I prayed for my son, prayed that I would be strong enough to help him in whatever ways he would need over the next year. And wow, those prayers were needed because it was a very difficult year for our entire family in every way possible. Despite all the “happy” photos I posted on social media because of my work, this one (left), taken by Mark, captured the real “me” that year. My son ended up having to fight the medical system, trying to find doctors that would treat him under the ACA, and some days he had to use a cane to walk. But on that day, November 22, in the midst of all the darkness there was light. Jason saw firsthand that his long-time girlfriend was going to stay by his side through ‘sickness and health’–and soon after asked her to marry him.
Part 4: A November 22, 2015 break-down and miracle
Mark was out of town. Alone and heading towards another November 22nd, I began sinking into deep despair. After a year my son was still struggling. Our dog, Reagan, had become paralyzed and was possibly dying. I had friends and family members who were experiencing serious loss and health issues, and everything in the entire world just seemed black, hopeless.
So I did what I’ve done throughout my life: I got down on my knees and began praying. I prayed for healing and comfort for my family and friends. I prayed for my country. I prayed for strength. And as soon as I opened my eyes and stood up, I knew what I had to do.
I began cleaning. Literally and figuratively, I began cleaning both my house and my soul.
At first I organized my very cluttered desk. Then I cleaned my bedside drawers, the bathroom cabinets and drawers, and then everything else. Everything. Every cabinet, drawer, and closet in my entire house was spotless and organized. I donated 30 bags of items to charity and filled our trash dumpster with bags. When Mark came home he found me cleaning the garage and, seeing the frenzy I was in and realizing it was serious, he quietly rolled up his sleeves and began helping.
I was completely in my own head, focused on my job-at-hand yet filled with fears and frustrations, taking it out on my now-exhausted body and soul. While breaking down an old, torn-up box I was deep in thought about the familial significance of November 22, the way that date had changed so many lives–and then I heard a ‘clunk’ sound on the ground.
It was my father’s ring.
Apparently it had been stuck in the fold at the bottom of that box, having fallen out of my jewelry box in 1998 when we moved.
My prayers, even the ones I hadn’t thought to pray about, were answered; everything was clear. God knew what I needed at that moment on the date of my father’s death, which was now also the anniversary of my son’s MS diagnosis. God knew what I needed going into yet another trying year, continuing to find answers and strength for my family–and very soon after, a mere 5 months later, my own diagnosis of MS.
Holding that ring, I sat on the garage floor and finally, for the first time in far too long, I cried.
Today, November 22, I am once again wearing my father’s ring on my index finger and will someday give it to my son. I don’t pretend to know how the little miracles in life happen–whether God sends us signs, or if He somehow guides us where we need to go when we ask for His help. But I’m grateful that instead of darkness and sorrow, this November 22nd I’m feeling the grace of peace and hope deep in my soul. And it is good.
(This article was originally published November 22, 2015.)