A few years ago, I started buying keys as jewelry. These are the kinds of keys I imagine would be owned by a fairytale princess or a powerful, ancient queen — beautifully carved, often set with small gems — fanciful and intricate. My favorite designer of keys is Barbara Bixby, who has created a collection called the Keys of Life. Each has its own meaning and symbolism. I own more of her keys than is reasonable, really, but I like the symbolism. Keys represent wisdom and knowledge, a striving for understanding.
My favorite key is one that my family gave me to celebrate the first anniversary of my kidney transplant. The Tree of Life key, as it is named, is wrought of sterling silver, sprinkled with tiny diamonds, and has a twining gold leaves. I love it for its beauty and for its meaning. It is a tangible symbol of my love for my family and theirs for me. it also represents a turning point in my life — a return to the relative freedom of a normal life. Entwined with that celebration of renewed life, though, is the thought of the young man whose kidney I received. I still don’t know his name, but his family gave me a precious gift in the middle of their own tremendous grief. My Tree of Life reminds me of the parts each of us play in the cycle of life that turns differently for every person.