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I just about panicked when I lost my favorite and most treasured ring, which my aunt gave me as I first joined the Baha’i Faith at age 15.
Engraved with beautiful calligraphy from the Baha’i writings, it said in Arabic, “God is Most Glorious.” I treasured it for what it symbolized, and because it had been the ring my aunt always wore.
The story of the loss of that treasured ring begins when I was 17, living in Southern California. My best friend Michele and I got on a plane, about to join 10,000 other Baha’is for our first Baha’i conference in St Louis, Missouri. We were so excited, our feet barely touched the ground—even when we landed! People came from all around the world in a spirit of great joy and unity, and I met many of them.
One evening, a group of us youth got together after the last conference session of the day. It was so much fun getting to know like-minded souls with the same life purpose. We all had caught the Baha’i vision of world unity and service to humanity:
It is incumbent upon every man of insight and understanding to strive to translate that which hath been written into reality and action …. That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race. The Great Being saith: Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth. In another passage He hath proclaimed: It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 249.
After coming back to our room around midnight, I flopped onto the hotel bed, completely exhausted. Though accustomed to showering before bed, I just couldn’t muster the energy and I dragged myself to the bathroom sink to wash my feet. As I lathered up, my hands got very slick and before I could catch it, my cherished ring slipped off into the sink and down the drain. I was utterly heartbroken!
Though just a physical possession, it had become more than something merely material to me. I tossed and turned in bed throughout the night, wholly distraught. Had I done something to deserve this? I could not see the hidden meaning of the loss. I thought about the wise observation Helen Keller once made: “What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”
The next morning I awakened, feeling like it was all a bad dream come true. Utterly despondent, I got myself dressed and off to the first morning session. Michele and I walked into a packed auditorium but then gratefully saw that our dear friend Ramona Brown had saved us seats beside her near the front. Ramona was 84, exquisite, regal, and beautiful. I had met her years before when I had the privilege of hearing her speak about her friendship with Abdu’l-Baha, who is the son of the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah. She spent much time with Abdu’l-Baha in 1912 when he visited California from the Holy Land.
When she was with the Baha’i youth, Ramona had generously shared her many encounters with Abdu’l-Baha. A strong, educated, and wise woman, she had led a fascinating life, fearlessly traveling the world in service to humanity. The stories she told us were enchanting and magical, and she later documented many of them in her book Memories of Abdu’l-Baha. We became very close and I stayed with her when she visited her daughter, Barbara West, in Los Angeles. I also visited her at her home on the beach at La Jolla in between letters and phone calls.
As I sat down, the morning conference session was about to start and there wasn’t time to chat. I looked at Ramona, dressed so elegantly with a lovely lace scarf draped over her perfectly coiffed hair. With a distraught look on my face, I leaned over to her and whispered, “I lost my Baha’i ring.”
She gave me a little smile and a knowing shake of her head in disapproval as if to say, “Don’t worry. You must have faith that things always turn out for the best.”
The first speaker welcomed the audience and began to open the conference. I looked over at Ramona as she reached for something in her purse—and pulled out a small box wrapped in tissue paper. She whispered, “This was a gift from Abdu’l-Baha.”
I opened the wrapping and gasped as I saw in my hands a gorgeous ring. It was gold with a stunning Persian ring stone, and the inscription in Arabic, “God is Most Glorious.” Delicate, lovely, and peach colored, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
I turned to Ramona and shook my head in distress, “No! This couldn’t be for me,” I thought. With a beautiful serene smile she nodded her head gently as if to say, “Yes, this is for you.”
I sat bewildered and in awe. I hadn’t told her about my lost ring until seconds beforehand. How could she have known I would need a new ring, and beyond that, how could she possibly part with her precious ring from Abdu’l-Baha?
Decades later, my friend Ramona has passed on, but I still remember that mystical morning vividly. A picture of her appears on the back cover of the book that she would write years later. In that picture she is wearing her favorite ring from Abdu’l-Baha and now, I look down and that same ring is on my finger.
I will never be able to explain the magic and mystery of that occurrence. I will never deserve what happened that day, but I know now that when I lose something, to try to remember that there is always a deeper meaning, that anything you lose comes around in another form, and no matter how bad things may seem, all is not lost.