Part 1: The Repeating November Dream
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 wake up. I desperately try to go back to sleep to make the dream last longer, wanting to say something to my father, to keep him around a bit longer, but of course that never happens. He died when I was a child, killed in a car wreck.
It was the week of Thanksgiving 1982 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 many young actors I was also waiting tables between auditions and acting classes. I loved California and had made some great friends, but I really 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 child I loved looking through that box, 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 Canton 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 was 5 years old so I never really knew the actual date of his death. I thought of that dream I’d been having for so many years, always in November and 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: November 22, 2014 in the hospital with my son
For three days my son, Jason, was hooked up to tubes and monitors, being tested in every way possible after losing his vision. Ultimately–and ironically–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 into our first house in 1998. Feeling completely helpless and small, I prayed for my son, and 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 very difficult 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), 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 in the hospital, November 22, in the midst of all the darkness there was light. Jason saw firsthand that his long-time girlfriend was going to remain by his side through ‘sickness and health’. When no one else was there for him, Mimi was. And soon after, Jason asked her to marry him.
Part 3: A November 22, 2015 Break-Down and Miracle
Feeling alone and heading towards another November 22nd, I began sinking into deep despair. After a year my son was still struggling. I had friends and family members who were also 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 started praying. I prayed for healing and comfort for my loved ones. I prayed for my country. My own health was failing so I also prayed for strength. And as soon as I opened my eyes and stood up, I knew what I had to do.
I began clearing the clutter. Literally and figuratively, I started cleaning both my house and my soul.
At first I organized my very unorganized 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. I donated 30 bags of items to charity and filled our trash dumpster to the brim with bags.
There was only one place left to organize: the dreaded garage. Without a pause I headed outside.
Boxes that hadn’t been touched since moving in 1998 were opened, de-cluttered, and in some cases re-taped and set aside for donating. At this point I was sweating, focused on my job-at-hand yet filled with fears and frustrations. I was taking it out on my now-exhausted body and soul, deep in thought and prayer about the familial significance of November 22 and the way that date had changed so many lives…
And then, while tearing apart an old box, 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, possibly having fallen out of my jewelry box 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. And God knew I was about to face yet another trying year, when only 5 months later I was also diagnosed with MS. So I believe He gave me the little push I needed to keep my strength and faith strong for everything that was to come.
Holding my father’s ring that day, I sat on the garage floor and finally, for the first time in far too long, I cried.
UPDATE 2020, Part 4: Coming Home to Texas
I originally wrote and published this article in 2015. While almost everything else in my life has changed, today on November 22 I am still wearing my father’s ring.
In February 2018 I moved back to my home state of Texas to take care of my elderly parents. I left behind my other home in California where I had lived since my early 20’s. It was one of the best decisions of my entire life, reminding me of all the Christmas Hallmark movies I love so much where the ‘big city woman’ moves back to her hometown to find herself again.
For the first time ever, I’m putting God and family first–ahead of career, politics, writing, and anything else that has distracted me from focusing on what’s truly important in life. I have much to make up for with many of my family members, my son and daughter-in-law, and my friends, and I will do my best to make that happen.
And after experiencing a lifetime of miracles both large and small, I believe wholeheartedly that God sends us very deliberate signs. If we will only listen to Him, He will guide us exactly where we need to be every time. We just have to learn to “Be Still and know I am God.” (Psalm 46:10).
This year on March 28, 2020, I lost my “second father”, Gene Brown. But today on this November 22nd, I’m grateful that instead of darkness and sorrow I’m surrounded with a feeling of grace of peace–something I pray all of you can find as well. As for me, there is hope deeply embedded in my soul. And yes, it is very, very good.