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The King’s Diamond – A Parable

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There is so much pain and sorrow in our world and lives. Finding some thread of hope and inspiration often seems unreachable. It’s so important that we reach out to each other and create that thread… see each other through. From the beginning of time, hurting souls would sit around fires, tell stories and create connection and hope. We’ve strayed from those rituals and too often feel alone. We need those stories, those parables and metaphors to hold onto, a touchstone to hope.

So, we offer you a “touchstone” to hold onto… the story of The King’s Diamond, an old Jewish folk story. This version is included in the Introduction of Living Through Mourning: Finding Comfort and Hope When a Loved One Has Died, by Harriet Sarnoff Schiff. May it bring you a sense of connection to all of us and your deceased loved one.

There once was a mighty king who owned the finest diamond in all the world.  People came from far and near to see the precious stone, which sat glowing in a display case. One day the king passed the case and decided he wished to hold the stone that had given him such pleasure. As he stood gazing at it, a flash of sunlight happened to strike at a certain angle and the king noticed for the first time that his diamond had a flaw.

So precious had the jewel become to him that the ruler was distraught. He called for his advisers to tell him what to do. The advisers pondered and could arrive at no solution. Finally, by consensus they agreed the king should offer a reward to anyone who could come forward and ease the ruler’s pain.

The reward was duly posted and the amount was substantial. Word traveled quickly and soon jewelers from throughout the land lined up to offer their suggestions.  Each viewed the stone and shook his head. No, the stone was permanently flawed and the only alternative offered to the sad king was to cut the diamond at the flaw line and make two smaller stones. To this the king would not agree.

Finally, all the jewelers had been heard. Left standing was a poor bedraggled man who had been pushed to the end of the line by all the others. Eyeing him, the king asked if he, too, were a jeweler.

No, I am not, your highness. I do lapidary work. I see beauty not only in precious jewels but in stones from the ground, as well.

The king hesitated a moment and thought carefully. He nearly turned the lowly man away, but there was something that glowed in the lapidist’s eyes that caught and held the king’s attentions, some sureness.

Your highness, if you will permit, I can not only restore the jewel, but I can bring it to even greater beauty than it had before. Please trust me.

The king stood quite still, his hands behind his ermine-bedecked velvet robes.  Finally, after what seemed an eternity to all who listened, he ordered the lapidist to begin his work.

His advisors were aghast.

How can you trust such a man with such a jewel?

No! Sire, please reconsider.

But the king held firm.

You may proceed, he said, but be aware that if you fail you will die.

I understand, sire, said the little man.

He was given a special room in which to work, one that glowed in the sunlight from many sides. The king watched as the man examined the stone and began chiseling around the imperfection. Startled, the king demanded to know why the lapidary was furthering damaging the stone.

Please, your highness, he said, wait until I am done and you shall see I have not damaged the diamond.

A week went by, and then another. Frequently the king would stop into the workshop, and each time the lapidist would assure him and then reassure him that all was going well.

Finally, the great day came. With a look of pride the poor man entered the king’s chamber and, kneeling, presented the ruler with the finished jewel. The king loved his diamond so greatly that he actually feared what he might see.

Then, after saying a small prayer to his god, he looked down at the gem now glowing in the palm of his hand. What he saw brought such an aura of joy to him that it matched the happiness on the lapidist’s face.

What the man had done was to engrave a rosebud around the imperfection and in creating the rosebud he used the flaw as its stem.

The king was truly awed for the poor man had kept his word. Not only did he have his precious stone but it was now even more special as the flower glistened from every angle.

In his joy the king asked the lapidist to name any reward and his wish would be granted. The lapidist declined gracefully, explaining that he feared wealth and fame would blur the inner vision that helped to see the rosebud.

Harriet Schiff then comments on the story: “There is a lesson in the story of the flawed diamond that can help us all when we are hurting and sorrowing.  Just as the king saw the stone ruined beyond repair and a joyless thing, so many of us view our lives following the death of a special person.

“When we are in pain we cannot comprehend, nor do we wish to, that a rosebud may be carefully carved out of a flaw. That a new life, not better but different, can be carved out by us when we have had to deal with the catastrophe of the death of someone special.

“The burden, and it is a heavy one for building this new life, generally comes at a time when we are least able to carry it. That certainly heightens our distress. When the mere business of existing in a harsh and cruel world is such an uphill struggle, how can we ask ourselves to look toward a better time? No, the burden as we see it is heavy and it is one that weighs us down as we attempt to go forward.

“Perhaps the most important thing we can know is that it is possible to shift the weight, to balance it more effectively so that we are not pulled backward but can indeed take small, slow steps toward healing.” 

By Jo Christner, Psy.D.