I was 38 years old and pregnant. Married and working full-time as the editor of a legal magazine in the San Francisco Bay Area, proudly Jewish but just loosely affiliated with a Berkeley synagogue; the confirmation of a baby-on-the-way was the fruition of hopes so long deferred. An exuberance of my new state of body and mind punctuated every moment. I allowed nothing to disturb the feelings of happiness and the blessings of good fortune that had been unexpectedly visited upon me.

I had always been an irregular person,My happy life imploded defiant about filling societal expectations. Now I would tread a foreseeably conventional path filled with baby showers and physically preparing for a labor I secretly feared. Judaism, in the background of my life, suddenly surged forward, seeming to insist upon being part of the prenatal show. In passing, a friend shared that in Jewish thought three things sustain the world: Torah, prayer and acts of lovingkindness. I realized that I would require a great deal of sustenance, and began reading passages of the Torah, praying at least twice daily, and helping others as much as I could.

On March 27, my happy life imploded with long-term terrifying consequences. A normal, unremarkable pregnancy ended in an emergency C-section. My pediatrician diagnosed my son with jaundice, an electrolyte imbalance, a thrombus in the brain and congestive heart failure. Suddenly, my husband and I were confronted with the specter of long-term hospitalization in the pediatric ICU and the lacerating words from his team of 14 physicians that it was not likely that he would survive. My anger at the apparent injustice knew no bounds, aligned with a complete and unprecedented loss of faith. Why would G‑d permit my son’s life to hang in the balance?

My husband had recently lost his job. He was despondent and our marriage was foundering. Ultimately, he would abandon the two of us, returning to Canada, where we were never able to find him. Family and friends retreated, too; they were overwhelmed by the enormity of my son’s medical prognosis. I felt untethered in the world, and all my prayers were powerless to make my son whole. I measured my moments, anticipating bad news certain to come to the tiny being residing on the fifth floor of Children’s Hospital Oakland, infinite tubes tied to his body, and constant doctors and nurses hovering over him.

In July, Dr. Dodd, the chief cardiologist monitoring my son, Nils, called me into his office and said, “We are releasing him today. His conditions have miraculously responded to therapies, but he is not completely out of the woods yet. There will need to be a lot of follow-up care and three weekly visits to various specialists. But the good news is that you can take him home later this evening.”

As I sat there, I felt abject terror—that I wouldn’t be able to manage his medical care and any potential complications. When I said through my tears that my son had not even been expected to live and I was terrified that he was still delicate and unviable, Dr. Dodd said these words to me that I have never forgotten: “The tendency of life is to continue. The Man Upstairs wanted this boy to survive.” As I stood there sobbing, he said one further thing: “All 14 doctors on Nils’s team called him ‘the champ,’ and we didn’t even realize that we were all calling him the same name!”

I couldn’t resist sharing that Nils means “champion” in Swedish, and he was named after my father, Nathan. “Natan” in Hebrew, means “gift.” “Remember how very hard he fought to overcome the obstacles and survive,” added Dr. Dodd. “Your job is to fight equally as hard for him. Hold on to him with every ounce of your being!”

Minutes later, I left the hospital and headed for College Avenue in Oakland, a favorite neighborhood where I decided to find something to eat, not having had anything all day. I was thinking about the bad deck of cards that I had been dealt (a desperately ill child whose future was still not medically certain, an indifferent family, significant financial problems, and a partner who had fled in the midst of our family trauma). I parked my car and reached into my purse for a quarter to place into the adjacent parking meter. Feeling somewhat dizzy and unsteady, I dropped the quarter, which fell to the ground at the base of the meter. As I bent to pick it up, I saw that under it was a very bent silver Star of David on a chain. My first thought was of the irony that a Jewish person (me) had found it.

But a moment later, another thought came to mind. The Star of David was symbolic of my own broken faith that had dissolved when confronted with my son’s dire medical challenges. This symbol—tarnished and twisted, but for the most part intact—had entered my life for a teaching moment. Finding it was not a random event. It was admonishing me that faith is not a desultory exercise carried out in a local synagogue, but in fact the very axis on which all thinking and feeling must rely. Faith was at the center, through which the human being was powered.

As I picked up that Star of David, I said two of the only Hebrew words I knew: “Modeh ani,” thank You, G‑d, for my life! It didn’t matter that this was traditionally a morning prayer. At that moment, I was thanking G‑d that a random event—finding the Star of David—was returning me to a Jewish path that I had at least temporarily deserted. It was the epiphany I needed to believe that miracles were possible, and that my son’s life was one of those miracles.

Finding that star returned my spiritualIt is a reflection of my faith life to me on that day. I have pondered from time to time whether I should get it straightened, but I always arrive at the same conclusion: I choose to wear it in the twisted and bent shape I found it in to remind me that my faith was challenged at that time as well. I wear it because it is a reflection of my faith and the Divine involvement in my life, of which Judaism is an inalienable and intrinsic part.

I am happy to report that my son is doing well and recently received his second master’s degree in library and information systems at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. He is a Civil War historian, and his first book was just published in Blacksburg, Va., near where the American Civil War once raged.

I will never forget the lesson of a simple piece of Judaic jewelry, and when I am not actually wearing it, I keep it on my desk so that it is always near me—the same desk where I write my pieces, which I hope will provide warmth and inspiration to those who chance upon them.

Einstein once said that “G‑d doesn’t play dice with the universe.” I like to think that finding that Star of David was meant to happen, orchestrated by His Divine hand.