First there was the election and two days later my Mom decided to move on along after 99 years. My hope for humankind and the life of the planet was diminished. At 55 I was now an orphan and depressed that much of what I stood up for in my life’s work was slipping away to the powers of greed, ignorance and fear. Then as if up from the grave for one last parenting flourish, Mom sent me Jewel to get me to stop my moping around and stand up straight.
He was born in a logging camp in Mississippi in 1921 and his Mama named him Jewel for the way he smiled right from the start. His wife chimes in, “And he shines everyday for me like the most precious of jewels.” Over the years this life forged a deepening shine that could not be dulled. There were the scarcities of the logging camp, being forced to eat tree leaves during the Great Depression, the war in the Pacific, the years working at the plant.
Then came the Louisiana flood of August 2016, devastating his home with three feet of water inside. He seems surprisingly light hearted for someone with 95 years worth of stuff to lose. He acted like it was simply the occasion required to bring us together.
He asks me to come around with him to the back of the house where stands his orange tree littered with flood debris; chaos, including a baby doll, wedged into branches by the torrent of water. All the oranges were stripped and carried away by the flood before they had a chance to mature. Yet hung up in the highest branch, an orb of ripened fruit remained, like the very sun born of the darkest night. Jewel shook the tree and as if on cue a reflex opened my hands, the fruit landing into an easy catch. His smile widening like a long summer day when you have a man named Jewel remind you that you too are shining like the sun.