Personal losses are relative

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 23, 2002

Thursday night

I lost a ring. I spent the evening frantically searching my little yellow house for it. It's not a big ring, or an expensive ring, just a small fire opal on a filigree band. But it was given to me by my husband on my first Mother's Day, just weeks before our oldest child was born. It meant a great deal to me. Because I've lost more than 60 pounds in the past year, the ring

had become loose and I kept meaning to get it re-sized.

Now it's too late.

Thursday night , an Andalusia family lost a son.

There is nothing in this job that is harder than dealing with the untimely death of a person, especially a young person with a lifetime of dreams and laughter ahead of them. Forced to objectivity on the news page, we still grieve for the family and friends in our private hearts, wishing we could, in some way, ease the pain in theirs.

It's a question of relativity.

Last April, barely a month after my mother died and two months after my oldest brother died, my baby brother cut off the top of his left hand with a table saw. I spoke to him the next day.

"You know," he said, "If I had done this a few months ago, I would think it was the worse thing that had ever happened to me."

There he was, left-handed without having a usable left hand, but it seemed to pale next our recent loss. It was that perspective that has gotten him through countless surgeries and endless, painful therapy.

"As bad as it hurts, nothing

hurt like losing Mom," he said.

It's a question of relativity.

When I see my own sons this weekend, I won't nag them about getting packed for the move. I won't fuss at the oldest for not getting his geography homework finished, I won't roll my eyes when the middle son gives me a blow-by-blow account of the latest cartoon, and I won't even whimper when the youngest climbs into my lap, gouging my ribs with his sharp little elbows. I will hold them and give them the hugs and kisses that another brave family can no longer give their son.

And when my husband asks me what happened to the ring, it will take me a moment to realize what he is talking about. What ring?

An old wire with a pretty rock – a bauble - only a symbol of the three miracles in my life.

And we will offer our prayers for the Couch family, and for all those who have lost a loved one.