When Kelly Grier made her way into church last Sunday, she had no idea she was going to get an early Christmas present. And it is one as improbable as it is memorable.
Twenty-three years ago, Grier, a 1998 NC State alumna, was on a youth-group outing at Moss Lake near Shelby, N.C. Leslie Conner, Grier’s father and an 1968 NC State alumnus, was a chaperone on the trip. As he was swimming with the group, his college class ring slipped off of his finger and found a new home at the bottom of the lake.
“When it fell off, everybody was looking for it,” Grier says. “They were all diving down. He was upset that he lost it. Years later, he got a replacement, but it was never as good as the first one.”
The ring meant a great deal to Conner, Grier says, because of the significance NC State held in his life. “He was first-generation college,” she says. “He was very proud of NC State. He brought us up Wolfpackers.”
In November 2013, Conner was diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma and died only seven weeks later. As that anniversary approached, Grier felt this Christmas season might be a little tough for her. She had been concerned about focusing too much on the time she had lost with her father during a 10-year period after he and her mother had divorced and father and daughter had not spoken. They had reconnected before he died, but she knew that thinking about those missed years could bring on added pain a year after his death.
But last Sunday, exactly one year to the day after her father had passed, Grier says he sent her a message that everything was okay.
She was walking into church in Shelby when an old family friend who had been at the lake with them those 23 years ago approached her. “She told me she had something for me,” Grier says. “She said she didn’t know if I would remember, but all those years ago, my father had lost a ring. And then she held it out in her hand.”
Moss Lake has been undergoing some repairs and the level is down about 20 feet, Grier says. So it’s not uncommon for people to be out there with metal detectors, combing over areas normally covered by water. A 9-year-old girl had found the ring, and the old friend had immediately recognized it as Conner’s ring.
“I’m a spiritual person. I believe that too many things had to fall into place for this to just be a coincidence,” Grier says. “That was my Christmas present from my dad in heaven.”