Conor's Spirit Bead

by Cassie Esselink

I have a white sweater, which I love and have had for years. It's bulky, and warm, and soft. It's nearly the perfect sweater, but there is a flaw in the stitching that I hadn't noticed when I bought it. One mustard-yellow stitch in all of the white sits like a tiny badge on the left shoulder. I was a little bit irritated when I first noticed it. Craftsmanship is not what it used to be. In fact, I have a beaded candle-lamp with the same type of flaw. It's all silver-gray, but there is one bright red bead. I thought, annoyed, that if the manufacturer had run out of beads, at least they could have used white, and it would have blended. I make crafts, and I would never have made something with such a glaring defect.

I was especially irritated by these imperfections, because I am one of those people who have been blessed with excellent taste, but who has very little excess money to spend on beautiful things. My husband works and I stay home with our two children. My son has a rare bone disease, and I spend a great deal of my time managing his health care, and keeping him normal, healthy, and pain-free. I love my children and home, but my life doesn't well accommodate my collector's habit. When I occasionally buy something I like, it's a rare opportunity for me. I never spend a lot of money.  It's alway's an item of somewhat little value for a good price. However, I always choose pieces that speak to my soul. So to have found these flaws was somewhat disheartening. So close to perfection.

My son, Conor, has MHE. He can run and play, and do almost anything he wants to do. He spends a great deal of time with doctors and in hospitals, but he wants to be a surgeon when he grows up, so I guess it's sort of on-the-job training. Conor is very popular with both children and adults, and is incredibly articulate and funny. He's really a special kid. Conor's flaw isn't a yellow stitch. It's that his bones grow tumors, and occasionally he has to have surgery to fix them. He wakes up hurting in the night sometimes, and has to wear a special splint on his arm to keep it straight while he sleeps. He doesn't run as fast as the other kids, and he tires easily. But the rest of his wonderful qualities more than make up for his one imperfection. If I could change him at all, I wouldn't. (Okay, maybe I'd make him neater.)

Recently, though, I was watching a show on television that described Native American beaded purses. They were all beautiful, hand stitched and beaded, lovingly created pieces. The program discussed what these bags would have been used for, who would have made or owned them,
and that they each were created with one flaw, called the Spirit Bead.  According to Native American culture, the Great Spirit could not enter anything that was flawless, because there was no place to enter through. So, in order to allow the Great Spirit to flow through their creations, these beautiful beaded pouches were created imperfectly.

Now I see my sweater, and my candle-lamp in a whole new way.  Now I look for the yellow stitch and the red bead and I feel comforted. Now these yellow and red imperfections remind me that somebody deliberately infused them with spirit and soul. Now when I see my son's tumors, I think of them as his Spirit Bead. Somebody deliberately made him imperfect, and for that he's all the more soulful. I have always known that he was a truly gifted child. Now I know that when he was crafted, he was made to allow Spirit to freely flow through his body, and into humanity. And how it does! This child has such a capacity for kindness, and compassion for others less fortunate, that I have to believe he was personally touched by his Creator, and that in the great mosaic of humanity, he is a very special color, one that stands out. He is one red bead that could easily be mistaken for a flaw, but who is really one of the passages through which the Great Spirit travels. And I am reminded that we are blessed.