Unlocking a Mystery

Featured image: The Key, 2021. (Photo by Anne-Marie Erickson)

I searched for scientific words in medical reports that might unlock the mystery that wended its way through my husband’s brain. However, the text that seemed most suited to our story was an old folktale. The tale features a key made of gold, which symbolizes spiritual powers. It’s the final story in the Grimm brothers’ collection.

            “The Golden Key” is one paragraph long. In it, a poor boy fetching firewood on a winter’s day finds a tiny golden key beneath the snow. He searches further and digs up an iron box. The key fits the keyhole. He turns the key, unlocks the box, lifts the lid, “and then we shall learn what wonderful things were lying in that box. The End.” Perhaps that’s the spiritual power the golden key imparts: the awareness that we cannot know.

            When I first read that enigmatic ending, mouth agape with an unspoken And?, silence answered me. The key to the mystery of my husband’s disease also opened to silence, a silence left in the wake of scientific words tumbling over one another, so many words spilling so swiftly. This week’s headlines about the latest research rushed past me, merging with a flood of findings from last month, last year. Still, I discovered no answer. I read. I waited. And? An uneasy silence. Perhaps I cannot know.

Anne-Marie Erickson

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