16 July 2008

Rings (A Three-Part Tale in Reverse Chronological Order)

Part 1: Today

I forgot to put my wedding rings on today. I still wear my own engagement ring and wedding band, plus I wear John's ring on a chain around my neck. I forgot all three. The kids and I were walking down the stairs to the car when I realized what I'd done. I contemplated going back inside to get my jewelry, but we were already running late, so I pressed on and tried to tell myself that it wasn't a big deal.

This is not, of course, the first time I've forgotten my rings. When John was still alive, I'd occasionally find myself accidentally ringless, which was annoying. I like my rings, and when you're accustomed to wearing something every day, there's something a little off about not wearing it. These days, though, when I forget my rings, it's more than just annoying. Forgetting my rings feels fraught with symbolism. What if I subconsciously "forgot" on purpose? Is my mind trying to tell me that I'm ready to go without? Will people who know that I'm widowed notice and wonder if I'm making some kind of statement? And people who don't know me, will they notice I don't have rings? Will they think that I'm—gasp!—SINGLE?

I don't feel single. I feel married. When to take off the ol' rings is a popular topic of discussion among widows and widowers. (I won't go into all of the other uplifting things we like to chat about.) Some people set a time: I'll take them off after a year. Some people, like me, just wait to see how they feel about it all. I don't need a tangible reminder of John; I think about him all the time with no prompting. But I also love having a sign of our marriage on my hand and around my neck. I like for other people to think of me as married. I like to talk about my husband. I like all of my rings, and for now I will keep wearing them. When I remember.

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Part 2: January, 2008

The same day I got my tattoo,* I thought I lost John's ring. I met friends for lunch that day, and during our meal I realized that the chain was there but unclasped, and the ring was gone. I searched the restaurant, my car, and the parking lot. I grimly recalled that I'd been all over the place that day: to Panera, at my mom's house, at a bookstore. I had no recollection of when I'd last felt the ring.

As I drove to my tattoo appointment, I tried to resign myself to the loss of John's ring as some kind of passing of the torch. The ring might be gone, but I was getting a tattoo whose purpose was similar to that of the ring. I would have a more permanent physical reminder of John and our time together. The ring was just a thing. A lovely and meaningful thing, to be sure, but a thing. 

I called the coffee shop and the bookstore: nada. My mom and I searched the house. Nothing. I made my peace with the ring being gone. Or I tried to.

The next day, my mom and I were playing with the twins in the living room, which has a shaggy area rug. My mom was on her hands and knees on the floor, inspecting something with Maddie. "Stacey!" she called. "Look what I just found!"

The ring.

I'm surprised I didn't hurt myself or a twin or my mom as I lunged for her and grabbed it from her hand. I was so happy to see that ring that I cried. It wasn't time for us to be separated, the ring and I. Not then, not now, not yet. 

******************************
Part 3: April, 2007

When John was in the hospital, what turned out to be a mere week before he died, we had a lot of Talks. White or wheat? (wheat) Mustard or mayo? (mustard) Burial or cremation? (cremation)

We'd actually already talked about all of that, but I wanted to be sure of a lot of things before John died so that I wouldn't have to question the decisions that would need to be made in the aftermath, especially decisions that were likely to be unpopular with my in-laws.

"Do you want to be cremated with your wedding ring?" I asked.

John was not one for jewelry or adornment. He wore the watch I gave him when we got engaged and his wedding band. That's it. He would never have gotten a tattoo or piercing. He could barely tolerate wearing his glasses. 

Being married and having a solid, happy partnership was one of the things that John was most proud of in his life. I know he valued the symbolism of his ring in the same way that I value the symbolism of mine. John was attached to few physical objects in this world, but that ring was one of them

The truth is that I desperately wanted that ring for myself, but knowing what it meant to John, I felt that it was up to him to decide if it should with him when he was cremated. As I asked the question, I hoped that his answer would be no.

"I always figured you'd keep it," he said.
"Riley might want it someday," I replied, filled with relief.
"And besides," John added, "that ring is worth a thousand dollars. It would be stupid to burn that ring up with me."

Typical John. Talk about practical.

The night John died, I had to pick out clothes to send to the funeral home, clothes for him to wear when his parents came to view his body before it was cremated, clothes for him to wear when his body was burned. My first thought was his Armani wedding suit, an extravagance from his parents. It's a gorgeous suit, and John looked really sharp in it. But John never, ever wore suits unless he had to, and it made more sense to me to pick out the clothes that he would have worn if he'd woken up healthy and whole the next morning. In the end I chose his favorite pair of jeans and my favorite sweater and one of his thousands of t-shirts from college. As I packed everything up, I could hear John's voice in my head saying, "Goose! That Armani suit cost a thousand dollars! It would be stupid to burn that suit up with me."

And so the suit, like the ring, was spared, in theory as much for practical reasons as sentimental ones. Even if the ring had been worth $5 and the suit had been a hand-me-down, I still would have wanted to keep them, though. Like John, I'm not sentimental about much, but the things that mean a lot to me really mean a lot.

*I still need to post a photo of the tattoo and tell the tattoo story. All in due time.

47 comments:

bostongirl said...

Thank you so, so much for sharing those stories. Tears are welling once again while reading your blog.

When my husband was in the ER after his first seizure, I wore his ring while he was in the MRI machine for the first time. I found myself fiddling with all three of our wedding/engagement rings for that hour and did so as the bad brain mass news was broken. Again I wore them all when he had his surgery. Yes, the rings are things, but such dear, precious things.

Holding your entire family in my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

I never comment. But this post was so touching and moving for me that I felt compelled. Thank you.

Julia said...

This is so sadly beautiful, and so very touching. I have tears in my eyes.
Damn, I am so sorry you have had to make those decisions. So sorry you get to wear all three rings now.

Anna said...

What a beautiful, touching post. Words fail me.

Betty M said...

Really beautiful.

My sister hasn't taken her rings off 2 years on. She did the same for her husband's cremation - a suit would have been so out of character.

the planet of janet said...

i'm strictly a lurker, but i wanted to tell you how touching this is. thank you for sharing it.

Rachel said...

Beautiful post.

Cheryl Lage said...

My kids are in timeout upstairs, and now I am weeping. (They deserve a bit of extra time for spraying sunscreen everywhere anyway...)

This was so very poignant. Thank you, Snick.

Astrogirl426 said...

Thank you for sharing this with us. You will be ready to take off the rings when you are, well, ready. You are not the only one who agrees that there is no right time, unless it's just the time that's right for you. Don't let anyone tell you differently :).

Anonymous said...

We always think of a dress or ring for our daughters wedding someday.

It would be so nice for Riley to have his father's suit and ring.

Legally Brunette said...

I don't remember the last time I had such a big lump in my throat. I sometimes tear up (happy tears and sad tears) when reading your blog, but this post just paralyzed me and I couldn't breathe. Truly breathtaking.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post. My father died many years ago. When my husband asked my mom for my hand in marriage she gave him her engagement ring. He had something else in mind for my engagement ring, so he had my mom's ring made into a charm for a necklace and gave it to me shortly after we were engaged.

Our son is now 8 months old and he loves to point at and play with my necklace. I love telling him the story about how his grandfather gave the diamonds to his Nan and then his daddy gave them to me. Of course, he doesn't understand, but one day he will. For me, it is a way for me to keep my father's memory alive for my son to get to know.

I am also not a big jewelery person, but this one piece has so much meaning to me. I hope your rings are not only a way for you, Maddie and Riley to remember John but also future generations of your family to learn about him.

buddha_girl said...

Up until about a year ago, I had my Dad's wedding band. About two weeks before he died, he'd sent me back to my house for a little rest from the hospital setting. I took his ring because I "needed a piece of him."

I gave it back to my Mom - why?

He'd had three rings - he kept losing and finding them during their marriage. She had all three melted down and custom-made into charms for me and my two sisters. I wear him around my neck often.

Rosepetal said...

I also never comment here but have been reading for a while. Like many above I also found this post beautifully written and very touching. Thank you.

Sonya said...

I'm tearing up and holding back from sobbing since I'm at work. My throat is thick with emotion. I love your post. Consider yourself hugged sincerely. You are a dear lady that lets us read about your innermost emotions. I hope you find comfort you need in this time of your life.

Lil Mis said...

My mom still wears her wedding ring although my dad died 28 years ago and she has a "boyfriend". The only thing differently that she did with it was put it on her right hand.

Nancy said...

I love your blog. It's so open and honest!

My mom lost her husband not too long ago and stumbled on your blog (through my link)...I think it's helped her out a lot - so thank you!(I don't know if she reads the comments though, uhm, "HI MOM!" if you do...)

It's also helped me to begin to understand what she's going through (there's no way I'd fully understand), and what my grandmother went through for 14 years. BTW, grandma never took her rings off; perhaps a bit different because of age? But I don't think so...

Again, thank you!

Anonymous said...

Rings can be beautiful things far, far into the future. I treasure my great-grandmother's wedding band, which is marked with the year of their marriage, 1911. It fits perfectly, and I wear it on special occasions.

Shelley

Sandi said...

My grandmother gave me her engagement ring two year ago and I had hers and the one John gave me turned into earrings.

I took my wedding band off for my surgery in June and I have not put it back on. It just kind of happened.

tousquireste said...

you are a beautiful writer. thank you for your stories.

luna said...

thanks for sharing this achingly beautiful story.

Kerrie said...

My heart aches for you, such a beautiful post. My partner's wife died almost 11 years ago now and he wears his wedding ring on a chain around his neck. He often takes it off when at home, as he does with other jewellery he wears but never goes out without it. It's very much a part of him and he would feel quite differently without it. I think it's important for his boys to see him wearing it and know that he still has a connection to their Mum no matter which path his life takes now.

Clover said...

Sigh- What a funny wonderful guy he was. Cancer is so fucking awful.

Deanna said...

I don't think i would be able to take my ring off yet either. The time will come, or it won't. Only you will know.

Glad you kept the ring and the suit!!

~Deanna

Watercolor said...

All in due time indeed. hugs.

mlg said...

Thanks for this lovely post. As always, I very much enjoyed reading it.

The girl in me who left one onion ring would say to not be too hard on yourself or try to figure out the forgotten rings.

Be you and be happy. You clearly have beautiful memories to hold whether you have the rings on or not, whether people notice or not, whether people ask or not. Do what feels right to you and don't judge yourself based on others.

You are so clearly very smart and sane. You will do what is right for you!

Nina said...

What an incredibly moving post.

Thanks so much for sharing it.

B.E.C.K. said...

Thank you for sharing yourself on your blog. You write about your life and love so eloquently, and you are obviously a very special person, as was John. *hugs*

Kendra's mom said...

Tears at work.......

A few months after my daughter died I went to a class to make art clay silver where you make stuff out of real silver in a clay format. I made a pendant in the shape of a K (her initial) and wear it most days. I feel like something is missing when I don't wear it and also feel guilty for not putting it on. Even though it was something that was only made after she was gone it still feels like I carry a part of her around.

django's mommy said...

Snick, I've read and reread your post several times now. If I could write at all, it's what I would have written. Neither me nor my husband wear (wore) much jewelry. I am at almost 11 months, and wear my wedding ring, and have his around my neck. I had wanted to take them both off on what would have been our 8th anniversary next month, but now that the date is approaching, I find myself a bit panicked. Regardless, I am so glad that I have his ring, and I plan to give it to our son someday. I know Riley will treasure John's ring.

Also, my husband was super practical too, and if he hadn't died suddenly, I imagine similar conversations about what he would have wanted to wear. As it was, he died in my arms wearing only his wedding ring, so he was cremated wearing exactly what he wore when he came into this world.

Your posts touch me so deeply. I cannot thank you enough.

Jolene said...

Those were such amazing stories. Thank you for sharing them with us. John WAS so practical...I love that. :) Hope you're doing well Stacey.

Mama Nabi said...

I have a feeling John and I would have gotten along really well - :-)

Thank you for the three stories - just as I took my ring off as soon as I could, I was already NOT married long before the divorce, I think of you being always married to John... even when you are ready to take your rings off...

Holly said...

Once again, you've written a beautiful story that's moved me to tears. I can't wait to read about the tattoo. I'm going to get one to honor my best friend, and once I do, I'll write about it as well :)

colleen said...

I always read your journal but dont comment much.This post broke my heart,you have the most beautiful way in how you express yourself and you make me smile too when you talk about the little ones.God bless you all.

Caustic Cupcake said...

This was a great post, all three parts of it.

Krista said...

I've read your blog for a long time, but never commented.
You write beautifully.
I have a friend who was widowed young, and just recently remarried after five years. She continued to wear her first wedding ring, and wears her second wedding ring on the other hand.

Threeundertwo said...

I'm so touched. What a beautiful, personal story. Thank you for sharing it.

Laura ~Peach~ said...

i am glad you found the ring... and I have waited in anticipation ever since you decided to get the tatoo to see it and hear how the session went:) I have told several people the story of your design and how wonderful I think it is. You continue to amaze me with your strength (I know you dont think so sometimes) but you are an inspiration to many.
Happy friday Laura

Twice Blessed said...

Snick ~ you write so beautifully. I'm so happy your momma found his ring. Have a relaxed weekend with your sweet babies. Best to you.

Katherine said...

I too continued to wear my wedding rings after my husband's death, and wore his wedding ring on a chain. And I lost my husband's ring too, twice, but fortunately found it both times. I switched my wedding rings to my right hand eventually--but really relate to your thoughts about not wanting people to look at my bare left hand and think I'm single, when I still have felt so married.

My husband has been dead 2 1/2 years and about five months ago I started dating someone. As we started to date more regularly, I thought I should not wear my wedding rings when I went out with him. So instead, on one date, I wore my husband's wedding gift to me--a small heart made of pearls on a gold chain. I was devastated to arrive at dinner and find that I had the chain, but the heart was gone. I've never found it. My friends said it was a sign from my husband that it was time to move on. But I still miss having it, and still search under furniture at home for it. And now I'm no longer seeing the new guy--it just wasn't a good relationship for me. And, of the two, the guy or the pearl heart, I'd much rather have the pearl heart back!

An Irish Life said...

This post had me in tears. I met who I thought was "the one" when I was pretty young. He was killed by a drunk driver when I was 19. In his pocket was the sketch of a ring I had made one night, half as a joke, of the engagement ring I wanted. He had ordered it, and was planning to propose when it was done. I never saw the ring, his mother was kind enough to ensure that. I grieved hard, but I was also young and we were not married so I know it is not the same as what many go through. Years later, when I met my husband, I did not tell him the story. When he proposed, 7 months into our relationship, he presented me with THE ring. I was dumbfounded. He had never seen the sketch, which I kept locked away, but it was so close to what I had dreamed of, I was floored. He told me he saw it and just knew it was meant for me. I said yes, of course, and when I sent my old love's mother a Christmas card, she called to offer her good wishes. I told her about the ring and asked her if maybe she thought somehow it was the same one? She laughed and told me the ring was never made. She had been able to cancel it.

To this day I think my hubby picking that ring was a sign, and I am not a big believer in signs. But I do try to remember that when I picking up his socks for the millionth time or listening to him snore as the baby cries.

I think anything that offers you comfort is wonderful. Wear the rings however and how long you want.

OTRgirl said...

As usual, that was very well said. I have such respect for how you're finding your way through this new bewildering landscape and allowing us to share the journey through your words.

Jane said...

Gorgeous, beautifully written post.

I am eager to hear the tattoo story...

Forever In School said...

Oh my goodness! My heart is coming out of my chest.
I just found your blog and read this post. It was so touching and honest. It seemed as if it came right from your heart.
I will continue reading your blog, in a reverse chronological order.

T.Allen-Mercado said...

I know that I don't have the right words; just a mark here on the "page" to let you know I've been touched and you're in my thoughts.

Keen said...

Oh, Snick, thank you for sharing the story of the rings. But mostly, I wanted to thank you for sharing a story about John. I love hearing them, whenever you feel inclined to share them.

Crash Course Widow said...

Thanks, Snickollet (although I now know your real name too...thanks! =)), for this post. As a fellow widow, I think it's fantastic how you're showing to nonwidowed people one really challenging, weighted aspect to the grief experience.

I felt some of the same way about my wedding ring. I stopped wearing it around 6-7 months after Charley died--I can't remember now if I simply switched it to my right hand or if I stopped wearing it altogether; I think there was a transitory time of both--because it was too painful to see it, to wear it and know that I wasn't married anymore. My sister and her husband surprised me with a beautiful new ring--blue topaz, Charley's birthstone--for Valentine's Day 7 months after he died, so it seemed like a good time to wear it instead. I felt so proud of myself for how "well" I was handling the whole ring thing. I wore his wedding ring still, on the middle finger of my left hand, but I had the diamond from my ring reset into a necklace for the 1-year anniversary of his death. I thought I was doing it all oh-so-well.

What a crock.

Yes, it's a comfort to be able to wear the necklace and feel closer to him on special occasions or more difficult death-related milestones. But dangit, sometimes I just want to wear my wedding ring, and now I can't. And I would have loved to have had it last week, on the 3-year anniversary of his death.

So take your time, whenever and whatever you decide to do with the rings.

(And I'd love to see and hear the tattoo story sometime. I had every intention of getting one after Charley died--I already have one small one, from when I was 20, as a memento and reminder of surviving what was (then) the worst year of my life--but somehow it never happened that first year. It's always been in the back of my mind since then, though, and recently it's been picking up more steam. I'd love to hear how you picked yours.)

Great post, again. Thanks! =)