The Missing Ring

And its unforgettable return.

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ILLUSTRATIONS BY HEATHER GRAHAM

I longed for a garden with flowers—at least one that would bloom more than three months of the year. So after nearly three decades on the snowy Canadian prairies, my husband Jim and I moved to the West Coast, warming us up from plant hardiness zone 3B all the way to 9A. Oh, the possibilities!

We purchased a century-old heritage house that had been renovated by a construction flipper. Neutral tones inside to appeal to more buyers, but unfortunately, the same blank canvas outside. He stripped the garden bare, installed sod, voiding it of all personality. We’d have to start our garden from scratch.

Soon we met our neighbors, Steve and Marta. They had emigrated from Portugal many decades earlier and had lived in the same nearby house ever since. They knew everyone on the block. Sometimes Marta would invite me over for traditional caldo verde soup. They taught me simple Portuguese greetings—bom dia, boa tarde, boa noite—which I would cheerfully call out each time we passed each other on the street.

One day, we found Steve in the front yard looking distressed.

Before he retired, Steve was a professional gardener who had worked for the world famous Butchart Gardens, designated a National Historic Site of Canada. We could not believe our good fortune when Steve offered to tend our garden whenever we had to leave town for work. We hired him immediately.

He shared dahlias and irises from his own garden, mowed our lawn, and managed other seasonal tasks. He collected useful discards from his rounds with other clients and repurposed them in our garden—salvaged bricks to make paths and concrete pillars to place clay pots filled with pansies. It was always a joy to return home and discover what Steve had accomplished. He was always so proud to show us.

One day upon returning from a work trip, we found Steve in the front yard looking distressed.

“I lost my wedding ring,” he said, holding up his bare hand. He pointed to the front flowerbed. “I think it was here.”

“Oh no!” I sympathized. “Let us help you find it.”

“No,” said Steve. “I’ve already looked everywhere. But if it ever shows up, let me know.”

We felt terrible, so the next day we rented a metal detector. For three days we took turns, waving the machine back and forth over every inch of the front yard. We walked the perimeter of the property and methodically across the backyard, then passed it over every flower bed. The detector picked up a lot of signals but, alas, no wedding ring.

“We have a surprise for you!” I said, catching my breath.

We even emptied the topsoil from the flowerbed where Steve believed his ring had been lost and sifted all the dirt by hand. But the ring—if it was indeed buried there—did not want to be found. We had looked so hard, but came up empty-handed. Steve and Marta’s ring, the symbol of their union, was gone.

Steve thanked us for trying, and told us to forget about it.

“I will get another ring.”

As the years went by, we worked less out of town. It became time to manage the property ourselves. We continued where Steve left off, creating the garden of our dreams from what was once a blank slate.

Sometimes though, when I knelt at the front flowerbed, I would remember the ring and run my hands hopefully through the dirt. But Steve had long ago given up the idea of ever seeing it again, and slowly, we did, too.

And then, something in the invisible world shifted. It was an ordinary Saturday morning. Jim was loading the truck with yard waste, and out of the corner of his eye, he noticed something shiny flash in the sunlight. There, peeking from the top of the dirt pile, was the wedding ring!

“This is such a strange coincidence,” he said. “Just yesterday I mentioned to the cashier at the hardware store about the lost ring. What’s it been now, four or five years? And here it shows up, the very next day!”

We immediately hurried down the street to Steve and Marta’s house. They were in the backyard, sitting in the shade of their mature fig tree, sipping coffee.

“We have a surprise for you!” I said, catching my breath.

“What is it?” asked Steve.

“Hold out your hands.”

Steve glanced at Marta, and then extended his palms. I placed the ring in his hands and said, “We finally found it!”

“Oh, my goodness!” exclaimed Marta.

Steve slid the wedding ring back on his finger, smiled, and took Marta’s hands in his. They looked at each other with tender affection.

But this was not quite the end of the story. There was, apparently, one more bit of magic.

Beaming at Marta, Steve said, “And today is our wedding anniversary. We’ve been married 57 years.”

“Yes!” Marta cried, putting her palms together. “This ring is a miracle from God!”

If ever there was a day for a lost wedding ring to be found, an anniversary would be it. The timing of the ring’s return instilled a sense of wonder in Steve and Marta, reaffirming their personal faith. It also embedded in my heart a certain peace with the uni-verse, that something is indeed looking over us. And that whatever I might lose in the garden, I trust that it will remain in safekeeping—like a planted bulb—until its destined time to emerge.

This article was published originally in 2022, in GreenPrints Issue #130.


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