When Sheryl Rainwater saw the ring almost three years ago, she knew it was perfect for her daughter Mikaella’s 19th birthday.
There was something extraordinarily beautiful about it, Sheryl said. It was so blue. When you looked at it, it was mesmerizing.
Now, the ring is gone, and Sheryl and Mikaella will do anything to have it back. They’ve printed fliers and are offering a cash reward.
It wasn’t worth a lot monetarily, Sheryl said. It had a 14-karat gold band. The side of the ring glistened with what looked like diamonds, but were actually white topaz stones. The blue topaz in the center, though, made the ring worth something that no one else could understand, she said.
Sheryl had raised Mikaella alone from the day she was born. She was a single mother and worked hard constantly to make ends meet and keep her daughter happy, Mikaella, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences, said.
“She’s my only child, and I’m pretty much her only parent,” Sheryl said. “Because it’s just the two of us, we have a pretty special relationship. We’re very close with each other.”
When Mikaella was 2 and a half, Sheryl was diagnosed with breast cancer. Their lives became a series of surgeries, chemotherapy appointments and radiation treatments.
“When you’re faced with that type of illness, your days become uncertain,” Sheryl said. “Your future becomes uncertain. You never know what life is going to hold in store for you and you stop taking things for granted.”
She wasn’t sure how long she would survive, but she knew she needed to stay alive until Mikaella was 21. She turned to God to seek help.
“I would make deals,” she said. “I’d tell him, ‘I’m her mother and nobody can raise her like I do. I have to be here.’ If he let me stay, I’d do something in return. I used to calculate the days and the years I needed to be here until she turned 21. My future, at the time, was uncertain.”
Sheryl recovered and the two grew closer. Life was normal – for a while, at least.
When Mikaella turned 10, the cancer came back and Sheryl’s future was once again uncertain. Mikaella said she remembers worrying for her mom, though she knew she’d make it through.
“She never gives up,” Mikaella said. “She’s strong. I knew she’d be okay.”
When Mikaella turned 19, Sheryl said she was deeply grateful to be alive. She needed to give her something that could symbolize the journey the two had been through, she said.
For her 16th birthday, Sheryl’s mother had given her a birthstone ring. Her mother passed away this May, and her ring has come to mean all the more to her since then, Sheryl said. When she saw the blue ring – the color of Mikaella’s December birthstone – she knew it was perfect.
“As a single mom, we don’t have a lot of nice things,” Sheryl said. “I’m not a wealthy person, so it meant so much for me to be able to give her this beautiful ring. I thought, in giving it to her, she’ll always have this and always think of me when she looks at this ring, no matter how long I’m around.”
Mikaella loved the ring as soon as she got it, she said. She hoped to pass it down to future daughters one day. It sat on her dresser before she left the house, and she’d place it back as soon as she returned, she said, but she never felt comfortable leaving the house without it. She only took it off to wash her hands.
“It reminds me of my mom,” she said. “I admire her for her strength and independence. It was something I could remember her by.”
When she came home from school Aug. 26, Mikaella noticed the ring wasn’t on her finger. She was at the Marshall Student Center (MSC) that day, she said. She must have taken it off and placed it on the sink.
Sheryl, who lives with Mikaella in St. Petersburg, said Mikaella didn’t tell her the ring was lost until four or five days later.
Sheryl wasn’t angry, she said. She, like Mikaella, only wanted to find the ring.
The next Saturday, she printed fliers with her phone number and stood outside the MSC explaining her story to anyone who would listen, she said. She posted the fliers on bulletin boards and doors, wherever she was allowed. Mikaella has been bringing fliers to school every day since then, and has been replacing the fliers every time she sees one missing.
No one has responded, yet they are still looking.
Mikaella has searched lost and found departments across campus, she said, and sought friends to help find the ring.
Peter Wales, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, works at the information desk at the MSC. He sees people looking for lost items “tons and tons of times a day.”
“Random people or janitors will bring lost items they find here,” he said. “After 30 days or so, unclaimed things are thrown away or given away.”
Phones, keys and wallets are turned over to University Police, but jewelry remains with them, he said. Currently, they have several rings – none being Mikaella’s.
Sheryl said she doesn’t blame anybody. She doesn’t want anyone to feel embarrassed or humiliated. She doesn’t want anyone to feel sorry for her or Mikaella. She just wants the ring back.
She said she doesn’t need to know who has it or for what reason. Sheryl said whoever has it can remain anonymous, and she is willing to set up an exchange through a third party.
Though she said pawn shops could offer more for the ring, she is offering $100 in cash for anyone who can return it to her.
“I know college students often need cash,” she said. “I wish I could offer more, but I can’t.”
Mikaella turns 22 in December, a day Sheryl said she once didn’t know if she’d live to see. Now she thanks God she is here every day, and thinking of Mikaella with the ring reminds her of their journey.
“I’ll never be able to replace that ring,” she said. “That particular ring is no longer made. I’m not a materialistic person, and neither is Mikaella, but it’s just a special piece of jewelry to us. It’s never going to mean to anyone else what it means to us.”