Updated: Dec 3, 2020
Oahu, Hawaii. Our family’s destination for Fall Break 2019 - a much anticipated family vacation. It is had been a tumultuous 6 months. A 2-week civil malpractice trial, a second heart tumor diagnosis and surgery, and a cross country move. We had moved our 3 children from the security of their home in Georgia to a new home in Utah and left them with my youngest brother to start a new life in a new school while my husband, Daniel, and I had temporarily returned to Atlanta for the heart surgery and initial recovery. It was now a little over a month since our return from Atlanta and time to reconnect as a family. What better place than an island vacation?
It had been an unseasonably hot summer in Oahu. Like many of the homes on the island, our rented condo did not have air conditioning. We craved to be out of the humidity and heat of the apartment on adventures. We had visited the Dole Pineapple Plantation, spent many hours in the translucent blue water of Waimanalo Beach, snorkeled in Hanauma Bay, experienced a Luau at the Polynesian Culture Center, and reflected on the Pearl Harbor attack. Visiting Pearl Harbor was one of the reasons I wanted the kids to travel to Oahu at least once. My grandfather had been on his way to the bathroom with his shaving kit in hand when the attack started on Scofield Barracks. He had survived that imfamous day. Sharing the history and significane of that day in American History was a special experience for the kids and me. But, as a family, we would share an unbelievable story before we left for home. A story that we could not fictionalize.
We wanted to snorkel one last time on the last day of our trip. In mid-October, the surfing season is just starting to ramp up as the waves on the North Shore go from placid water to epic pipelines perfect for surfing competitions. We were on the precipice of the waves changing for the winter surf season. Venturing off to the north side of the island we asked locals where were the best places to snorkel. Turtle Bay Hilton was recommended as the first stop on our quest. The waves coming into the bay rendered the water murky as the kicked-up sand mixed with the aqua blue water. No snorkeling for us in this location. We were told to try Sharks Cove. As a last effort to snorkel on our trip, we drove to the recommended destination.
Sharks Cover is a lava-rock beach. A quick internet search revealed that Scuba Diving Magazine had rated it one of the “Top Twelve Shore Dives in the World.” While we were there just to snorkel, the number of cars that lined the adjacent parking lot signaled that it was a popular destination. The snorkeling inlet appeared like a natural aquarium with a wall of lave rock along the outer edges producing a habitat separated from the ocean and reef that lay beyond the wall. It was full of snorkelers with the tubes of their snorkels visible above the water’s surface as they searched for ocean life below. There were people out on the wall’s edge taking pictures, no doubt trying to improve their Instagram feeds, as we arrived. Large waves would intermittently crash over the edge of the wall and produce a ripple of smaller waves within the cove. It definitely wasn’t a perfect day to snorkel, but we were going to give it a go.
Wading into the water, it was difficult to navigate the rigid, sharp edges of the lava rocks as the waves rippled in from the ocean. We soon recognized that it was too tumultuous for our family. The water was too murky to see any of the fish. Each wave that crashed over the edge served as a reminder that the force of the wave could sweep us into a jagged rock. Before we realized what had happened, emergency crews began arriving. One of the “Instagramers” on the walled edge had been knocked from the wall and injured. Other ocean goers were helping the injured person out. Bloody limbs could be observed on some as they exit the water to the sandy beach and the rescue crew. Snorkeling was abandoned as the emergency responders instructed everyone to exit the cove.
We loaded the kids up into the rental truck. Disappointed that we would not be snorkeling, but in a way, relieved that we had left without injury, we started the drive home to the windward side of the island. About 5 miles down the road, my husband noticed that his wedding ring was missing. A state of controlled panic ensued. Should we turn around? If he had lost it in the cove, then the chances of locating it were slim to none- literally looking for a needle in the haystack of sand. But, didn’t we have to try? He turned the truck around and we headed back.
Upon arriving back at the cove, we first inspected every inch of the cabin of the truck. No ring. The towels were shuck out only producing walls of sand tumbling to the ground. No ring. Bags were dumped out and the contents inspected. No ring. The kids decided to help my husband search for the ring. They produced their snorkel gear and headed down to the water to comb through the area of the cove that they had been swimming in. In less than an hour, the cove had calmed. The raging waves were now not breaking over the edge of the wall with the same fervor that they had been on our first attempt. Searching the area, they sifted through the sand and rock.
Sitting on the hill to watch their search efforts below I knew I would be of no use with my impaired vision. I observed a family that had been arriving with their children when we were leaving the first time. They were still there with their towels and gear strewn over the sandy beach with their older children out snorkeling in the cove. Brave, I thought. But, then realized that with the water calmed, they were in a different situation than our family had been in less than an hour before. My little family searched diligently for the missing ring. I watch their snorkels bob in the water below. Deciding to survey the area above, I retraced our steps in the parking lot and around the showers and bathroom area. No ring. I silently prayed. In my mind, it would be a wonderful teaching moment for my kids. A miracle, if we found the ring. A prayer answered in a seemingly impossible situation.
Search efforts were abandoned after an hour. The ring was gone. As we drove back to our condo, I searched on my phone for a new ring. Maybe we would downgrade from the original platinum band to a more economical white gold band for now. Emotions of sadness for the missing symbol I had given my husband 17 years before were mixed with disbelief - how did the ring come off of his finger? Mine rarely came off and definitely would not have fallen off in the water. But, then again, it was stuffed onto my pudgy ring finger as I had found a “few” pounds since we married. Then again, at the time it has become displaced, our most important goal had been to remove the kids from the cove water to safety. A ring slipping off as he held onto a lava rock bracing for a wave to pass could have easily gone undetected. Whatever the reason, the forces of the ocean had claimed the ring.
We were scheduled for an early flight the next morning. It had overall been such a wonderful week. Leaving the condo in the darkness of early morning, we made our drive to the Honolulu Airport. Daniel had decided to drop us off to check in for our flight while he returned the rental car. The kids and I went into the airport, check in and checked our bags. We proceeded to the security line. While meandering through the line, we noticed Daniel waiving his left hand as he passed though the Pre-Check line. His wedding band was on his finger. Shocked at the observation I mouthed, “Where did you find it?” He mouthed back, “I’ll tell you at the gate.” Full of relief that he had found the ring, I assumed he must have located it on the final inspection of the rental.
Once the kids and I were through security, we reassembled in the Delta Lounge to feed the kids breakfast before the long flight back to the mainland. Daniel proceeded to relay the story of his reunited ring.
He had been standing in the line to return the rental car. There was a family in front of him also returning their car. One of the younger children was whining that he had lost his water bottle. My husband, who unlike me would never engage with strangers in line, said, “Well, at least you didn’t lose your wedding ring.”, as he waved his empty left hand. The family then began to inquire about the lost ring. Where had he lost his ring? When had he lost his ring? He tells them that we had been snorkeling at Sharks Cove the day before when he had lost his ring. They had an odd expression on their faces as the oldest son revealed a platinum wedding band on his hand. Daniel immediately recognized it as his wedding band. The father interjected into the exchange, “Wait, how do we know that this is your wedding band?” Daniel described that engraved on the inside of the band are The Beatles lyrics, “In my life, I love you more.” Realizing that he is wearing this stranger’s ring, the son lowers his shoulders and reluctantly slips the ring off of his hand and gives the ring back. The ring returned - a miracle has occurred.
It was the family that I had seen coming into the cove to snorkel when we had left the first time and who had been still been at the beach when we returned. The son had found the ring simply laying on top of a rock in the cove. Caroline, our daughter, told us that she had felt prompted to go ask the family if they had seen a ring when we returned to look for it, but had decided against it. Now she regretted not asking them. Our sons consumed with excitement congratulated their father on the return of his ring. We all were in disbelief that shut an event has transpired. What were the odds of having someone wearing your lost ring at the rental car return? Again, seemingly impossible.
Our prayers had been answered in a miraculous way. The ring had been recovered. Caroline had learned a lesson about following her prompting and reaching out of her comfort zone. But, most of all, Daniel said, “Well, if I ever doubted that we should be together, now I know for certain that we are meant for each other.” The past 6 years had been hard. The losses had been great after my stroke and all of the fallout from a lost career and chronic illness. But, in that instance, Daniel has not only felt our bond strengthened, we had taught our children that prayers can be answered. They may not be answered when or how we want them to be, but ultimately, they will be answered the way that they are meant to be.