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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

October discovery

When Mom died of cancer February 1993, Dad placed in my hand the silver necklace, a charm attached to a long chain, which she wore all the time. It was a gift, a remembrance of Mom, and perhaps he thought it would comfort me since I too was going through cancer treatment, diagnosed the previous October. I wish I could have been there for her but the 3000 miles apart and my treatment made it hard.

Dad bought it for Mom on one of his travels to Rio as a Bank Examiner. The charm was in the form of a lower arm, with cuff and wrist bracelet with the hand clenched into a fist. On the cuff standing out in raised letters was the word “Brasil”, how Brazilians spell it, and an anchor design on the back of the cuff. Later when she needed a colostomy and radiation treatments, she began to wear it all the time, with her own right fist clenching the hand of silver as it lay at the end of the long chain on her chest. It was almost as though it was her anchor, another hand she could hold that was always there. I too, after receiving it, wore it going through the treatments when I was feeling especially vulnerable, hurting, alone or just missing Mom. I would grasp the hand that Mom grasped and in a way it was like having her close. It was not until it was in my possession that I took a good look at it. The fist was not an ordinary fist but had the thumb placed between the index and middle finger. It was not until a few weeks ago that I took time to find out the meaning of that fist. Called a figa, this amulet is used for good luck common in Brazil. The figa or higa supposedly came to Brazil through the African slaves brought to the West Indies and beyond, and used to ward off the evil eye or demons, and diseases. It was also brought to the West Indies with seamen of the Spanish Armada again worn for protection especially against shipwrecks. I don’t believe in good luck charms, only the grace and sovereignty of God. Man made objects cannot protect us as evidenced by the multitude of Figas retrieved from shipwrecks in museums in Bermuda and Florida and Dominican Republic and no protection from disease for Mom. I also found that this particular fist gesture is an obscenity in some countries.

Mother and Dad would have been mortified if they realized what she was wearing. Not only the obscenity of it, but a man made object whose purpose is to trust it for protection rather than in God’s sovereignty and faithfulness would go against their beliefs. So I contemplated how to get rid of the necklace.

Last week I traveled to the city, driving a friend back and heading to a luncheon to benefit mobile mammogram programs. I still have a hard time with October, the month I was first diagnosed, but wanted to recognize and celebrate my 15th year survival anniversary. So on that day, that would have been Dad’s 100th birthday, I stood on the deck of the ferry as we traveled past a reef marker towards Anacortes, with the witness of my friend, and with much celebration, praising God, grabbed a hold of that hand for the last time and flung this charm into the deep. I could almost hear Dad and Mom clapping and celebrating too.

“Lord You Are More Precious than Silver” I sing.

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