Memorial Stones

I love coffee and so I guess it is fitting that I have a coffee cup collection. I bought a cup at the top of Pike’s Peak when I completed my hike up the 14,000 foot mountain. I bought one in California after seeing the majestic, gigantic Sequoias. I bought a cup in the hospital gift shop in La Jolla when my son almost died during a harrowing open heart surgery, but instead lived to be healthy and happy again. I picked up a hand thrown pottery wizard cup in Lenoir, NC after reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I was given a cup when I retired from the Air Force, and I have cups from many of my employers over the years.

I bought a cup in South Dakota, hand thrown pottery with a bison design, after seeing the overwhelming buffalo herd in Custer State Park. And speaking of parks, I have lots of cups from a variety of National and State Parks including Carlsbad Canyon, the Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountain, The Great Smokey Mountains, Yosemite where we encountered a huge, beautiful bear and others. I have mugs from smaller places like Plymouth Plantation near Boston, Bojangles Chicken and Biscuits where I meet with a group of men for Bible Study every Tuesday morning and a hand beaded tin cup from my daughter-in-law’s home land of South Africa. I have mugs that are from special occasions like the pottery mug from Ipswich, Massachusetts that we bought on our 33rd Anniversary, and the cup my children bought me for Christmas 23 years ago with their three wonderful smiling faces, now starting to fade on the side. There are many more I can describe, each from a special moment in my life or a special friend or loving family member.

I started my collection after reading a Bible story, a most unusual way to start a collection. It is from Joshua 4. The Israelites needed to cross the Jordan River, but the water was deep and treacherous. Once more, like at the Red Sea, a miracle happens and the waters part and they walk across on dry land. God instructs Joshua to have each tribe pick up a stone out of the river bed as they cross, which they do. Once they are on the other side they are told to pile the stones into a pillar. And Joshua tells the people that in the future when their children ask them why those stones are piled there, they are to tell them it is because they crossed the Jordan on dry land. The stones were memorial stones—a reminder forever of that amazing special event. They were also conversation starter. When someone saw this unusual pile of stones it would give the opportunity to tell the story of that day.

That’s why I started my coffee cup collection. They are my memorial stones. First, they are memorial stones for me. When I drink out of my bear mug, I remember the day we saw that amazing creature in Yosemite; when I sip my Joe out of my Denali cup, I remember being able to see Mt McKinley from 120 miles away, and when I see that hospital mug I remember that every day I can call my son and laugh together with him is a gift. They also remind me to pray for my friends and family. When I drink from the various mugs that were gifts from children or friends, I say a prayer for that individual.

Secondly they give me a chance to tell my tales to others who see the mugs—my huge wizard mug draws a lot of attention and I get to tell the story of how during my cancer treatment this last year I took the opportunity to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time and share that experience and lots of conversations with my son, Joel who is a huge fan. Sometimes a mug will remind someone else of a visit THEY had to that place and I get to hear their story. You get the picture; they are memorial stones for sure just the same as those stones piled up on the bank of the Jordan River.

What is it that you collect? I’ll bet if you think about it for just a moment you will find that they are memorial stones too!

Written by Cowboy Rick Brown

Cowboy Rick’s Corral of Collectibles on Ruby Lane