More than once in the past few days, Deb King’s friends have told her she should go out and buy a lottery ticket. And more than once, she’s shaken her head in disagreement.

“This is not about luck,” Deb said this week. “This is about an answer to a prayer.”

Either way, it’s one of those tales that send chills down your spine.

It goes like this:

Back on Sept. 23, Deb and her husband, the Rev. Jim King, climbed onto the back of his motorcycle for their weekly lunch date.

They’ve been doing it for years, each Thursday, his day off as pastor of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Portland: He gets to take the bike out for a spin; she dons the helmet, heavy leather jacket and biker boots on the condition that he take her “someplace pretty.”


That someplace, on this day, was Freeport.

Heading up Interstate 295, they hit a construction zone. The right lane, in which they were riding, was still grooved while the left was freshly paved.

Deb leaned forward nervously and reminded Jim of a friend who had been injured dumping his motorcycle under the same conditions. Jim nodded and gingerly coaxed the bike up onto the left lane.

“The front wheel went over no problem,” Deb said. “But then the second wheel caught.”

The bike lurched to one side, ejecting Deb at 55 mph. Jim hung on, sustaining barely a scratch as he deftly guided the motorcycle to a stop.

“I bounced once and I bounced again,” Deb recalled. “And then like a rolling pin, I rolled so many times I thought it wouldn’t end.”


She ended up in the grassy median. She had fractured a shoulder blade and five ribs (one in two places), and suffered serious cuts and scrapes on her legs and on her hands.

An emergency medical technician who saw the crash stopped and ran to Deb as she lay face-down on the grass.

“Don’t move!” he hollered to her. “No matter what, don’t move!”

More help arrived minutes later and, as rescue workers turned her over onto a hardboard, Deb held up her left hand and gasped – not at what she saw, but at what she didn’t see. Her platinum wedding ring was still there, but its 2½-carat diamond was gone.

It wasn’t just any diamond, mind you.

It went all the way back to Jim’s great-great-aunt Monie, a young, wealthy widow who lived a life of style back in the Roaring Twenties.


Monie was known for her ermine stole and strings upon strings of pearls. But her prized possession, Deb said, was a “knock-your-socks-off ring” complete with three large diamonds.

Monie passed the ring down to Jim’s father, who removed the diamonds and gave one to Jim’s mother for her engagement ring.

They set the other two diamonds aside for safekeeping, resolving to pass them on to their children when the time was right.

That time came 32 years ago. Jim, who grew up in a wealthy family in Avon, Conn., was planning to propose to Deb, who grew up in a poor neighborhood in Paterson, N.J., when his mother pulled him aside.

“Take this diamond,” she told him, “and give it to your wife.”

“I’d never seen anything like it before,” Deb recalled. “I wore it every single day for 32 years. I felt like Cinderella.”


Now, here she was being loaded into an ambulance, staring in horror at the mangled platinum prongs that had surrendered her cherished heirloom.

“It’s my history! My heritage!” she wailed as the perplexed rescue workers buckled her in. Turning to Jim, she pleaded, “Please, I know I’m going to be OK. Please stay here and look for the diamond.”

He did – for about 30 seconds. Then he hightailed it for the hospital.

End of story? Not even close.

A day or two later, Jim put out an e-mail to his congregation thanking them for their prayers and announcing that he was going back to the scene to resume the search and would welcome any volunteers who might want to join him.

Twenty people showed up.


Under the protective eye of a state police trooper – Jim had secured permission to walk in the median – they fanned out and painstakingly scanned the ground for more than an hour. One woman who was driving by stopped, asked what was going on, and immediately joined the search.

They found nothing.

A smaller group returned a few days later.

Same result.

Then, yet another group decided to look at night with flashlights – they figured the diamond might reflect the beams of light.

Didn’t work.


Finally, a group of men from the church piled a generator and four shop vacuums into the back of a pickup.

As an ever-patient state trooper watched from his cruiser, they vacuumed the entire accident site, dumped the dirt and debris into the back of the truck and carted it back to the Kings’ home in Cape Elizabeth to be sifted through a fine-mesh screen.

No diamond.

Deb, having spent the entire time recuperating in bed, was heartbroken. Even after a woman from the church came by and told her in no uncertain terms, “God told me you’re going to find your diamond,” she found herself giving in to the sinking feeling that it was gone forever.

The diamond’s estimated value was $20,000. But Deb insisted it wasn’t about the money.

“It’s about this family. It’s about heritage,” she said. “It’s about the connection of one generation to another, the hope for the future, the knowledge that something will go on.”


It was also about persistence.

Last Thursday, Jim told Deb it was time for her to get out of bed and get some fresh air. By now she had developed a cornea infection and was effectively blind in her right eye – but she grudgingly agreed.

They got in the car and, heading north, decided to have that long-overdue lunch in Freeport.

Along the way, Deb returned a cell phone call to her sister. Moments into the conversation, Deb noted that they were going to pass the accident site.

“Oh no,” Jim said, mad at himself for not thinking of that sooner. “We shouldn’t have come this way.”

“Got to go!” Deb told her sister. “We’re almost there and I want to take a quick look for my diamond!”


“I’ll say a prayer for you,” her sister promised. “Look for something sparkling!”

Jim reluctantly pulled over. Realizing it was the wrong spot, he drove forward for several hundred yards and, looking around for landmarks, stopped again.

The car shook as the steady stream of cars and 18-wheelers whizzed by.

“You can’t cross over to the median – you’ll get killed!” he warned Deb. “I’ll give you five minutes. And you have to stay on this side of the highway.”

Deb got out, walked about 20 feet behind the car and, for the first time, grasped what all those searchers had been up against.

“It was like the Sahara Desert of grass,” she said. “It went on forever.”


Utterly defeated and trying mightily not to cry, she walked slowly back to the car. Reaching for the door handle, she looked down with her one good eye and saw a pancake-flat soda can nestled in the grass at the edge of the breakdown lane.

Only one word was still plainly visible on the can: “Sparkling.”

Deb bent down, ignoring her aching ribs, and picked up the can. Beneath it, half-buried in the dirt, she noticed something tiny. Something, well, sparkling.

“Please, God,” Deb whispered as she reached down with her still-bandaged hand and slowly brushed the dirt away.

It was her diamond.

“Aaaaaah! Aaaaaah! Aaaaaah!” Deb shouted over the traffic, holding up the diamond in one hand and the can in the other.


Jim, speechless behind the wheel, just clapped his hands and laughed.

An incredible coincidence? Or divine intervention?

Each of us will have to decide that for ourself.

But Deb, who knows a miracle when she sees one, forever will believe this has a lot more to do with faith and prayer than with happenstance and semi-blind luck.

“Pictures fade,” Deb said. “But when someone inherits something, the name goes on, the history goes on, the preciousness goes on.”

Picking up her beloved diamond, she added with a smile, “And now this story goes on.”


Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:


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