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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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December 30, 2008

Of Breath and Beetles


King Tut's personal effects
, though not the mummy himself, are on display in Dallas. An exhibit about the pharaoh's life was the reason we filled the minivan to capacity yesterday with seven people -- all five from my family and both of my parents, who live in Fort Worth.

Taking my mom to the Dallas Museum of Art would have been unthinkable almost three years ago when she was waiting for a double lung transplant. Back then, she was so frail that walking more than a few paces was more than she could do. My mother was dying.

At one point during the exhibit tour, I broke off alone from our group. I found myself in front of a necklace that held a scarab beetle, a symbol that ancient Egyptians associated with rebirth. The scarab was crafted from a milky yellow-green glass that formed in the desert after a meteor fell and melted the sand. Enchanted by its beauty and meaning, I admired it for as long as I could. Then, as I turned toward the next treasure in the room, there was my mom -- the person in my life who has most fully experienced the meaning of rebirth.

The exhibit was spectacular, but there is something else in Dallas that is more precious to me than the gold of a king. The family of the teenage boy who gave my mother breath lives in this city. Someday, perhaps in the coming year, we'll meet his family -- but what do you say when you've received something as priceless as rebirth, especially when it's followed by the death of another's son?

A couple of years have passed since my mother's transplant on Easter Day in 2006, but the exhibit reminded me that I'm still unpacking the lessons, emotions and grace of that experience.

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