Life as a third year med student was stressing me out. Money was getting thin and I didn’t know how I would be paying my next tuition. My wife, Marilyn, was working as a paralegal and I worked when I could at a hospital. Times were hard, cash short, nerves on edge.
Marilyn and I were going through my aunts’ house, making an inventory and packing a few things at the same time. Aunt Lucy passed on a couple of weeks ago, leaving me all of her treasures. We went from room to room, sorting and marveling at all the souvenirs the old gal had amassed throughout the years. She had visited many different countries while working for the Red Cross. When I was a kid, we used to listen to her for hours, telling us stories about this country or that country.
“Now Mike. Do you see these? These are my lotus blossoms. Someday they will be yours.” She was holding out three crystal-like rocks. They were as big as my thumbs and were orange with a light milky white streak around them. “These will make you very happy one day.”
“Where did you get them, Aunt Lucy?”
“They come from Ceylon. (Sri Lanka today) It is a very beautiful country, filled with lush jungles, mountains, and plains. The Sinhalese people are so nice. I remember seeing fisherman, perched up on poles that were sunk into the beaches. Sometimes there would be fifty or sixty of them on their poles, fishing for hours in the surf. In the mountains, white waterfalls would gush out of the green cliffs, their water tumbling down to the river in the valley below. It was all very beautiful! Ceylon is where we get a lot of tea, coffee, rubber, and cinnamon .”
“But where did you get the rocks from?”
“A Buddhist monk gave them to me after I treated some people in a village near his monastery. They had been attacked by a tiger. He invited me to Anurdhapura to visit ruins from the fourth century B.C. It is considered a sacred place to Buddhist around the world. There, he showed me the ruins which were once the capital of Ceylon. In the evening, he invited me to one of the hundreds of monasteries around Anurdhapura, where we ate, and he offered me the rocks.”
“Ayubowan, he told me as he handed them to me. That is the local greeting over there. It means “may you live long and be healthier”.
“Ayubowan” I said to myself as I picked up a clear, plastic case containing the three crystal rocks. “So, someday these will make me very happy, huh?” I put them in my box of “urgent junk to be dealt with”. We finished our sorting and picking. There really wasn’t much of value.
A few days later, Dave, a friend of mine who was studying gemology, had dinner with us. He saw the three crystal rocks and was very interested in them. We let him take them for an appraisal.
Two days later, Dave called. “Mike. Are you sitting down? This is Dave. Your lotus blossoms are called Padparadscha. They are extremely rare orange sapphires. Your three are estimated to be worth thirty-seven thousand dollars, forty-three thousand dollars, and fifty-two thousand each!”
“Mike? Mike? Hello? Mike, are you there?”
“Ayubowan” was all that I could reply. “Ayubowan, buddy.”
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