Rings are a big question with widows. What to do with the rings.
When you marry, you exchange rings as a symbol of your enduring love and commitment to one another. They encircle your ring finger, a public display of your connection.
I am married. I have a person. This is my proof.
We tap our rings on tables and nervously twist them around our fingers. They become a part of us, these circles of precious metal, warm and solid as a good marriage should be. They become everyday like morning coffee and arguments over housework. They become part of you.
And then one of you dies.
(It’s going to happen, guys.)
And you go on living with your life split open and your person in a box in your cupboard and a ring on your finger.
When Tim and I married, we chose to have rings made by Jade Moran, a jewelry designer on Highland Ave. in Somerville. We liked her organic, modern designs and the trailing succulents in her studio. We liked her. We couldn’t afford custom rings, so we had rings made with existing designs in white gold. They were special and unique. They were exactly what we wanted.
Two weeks before Byron’s birth, Tim lost his ring in a snowbank on Johnson Ave. in Madison, somewhere on the walk between our apartment and the hair studio. Disappeared in the frozen white powder covering the city. He bought a cheap replacement the next day. $80 on sale at JC Penny. It was good enough.
One the second day of Tim’s hospitalization at Tisch NYU, his body was being pumped with IV fluids. I stood at his bedside as the nurses worked him over. “His fingers are swelling, we need to remove his ring”. She popped the band from his finger and slipped it into my outstretched palm. I fumbled for a moment, unsure of what to do with this piece of information in my hand, a slid it onto my finger. It clinked against my other rings.
After Tim died I kept the rings, all three, on that finger for several weeks. They needed to be together. At least something could be together. I twisted and worried on them. The skin on my finger started to get red and calloused. I kept them there.
Then I started to get tired of the weight. Three rings on one finger felt excessive. One wasn’t supposed to be there. I slipped off two, my aquamarine engagement ring and Tim’s silver ring, and placed them on a small lacquer box on my dresser.
Eventually even just the wedding ring felt unfair. This little band, a display to the world that I was married. But I’m not married. But I am. But not. I’m raising these kids alone. I’m personless. I’m alone.
In October, five months after Tim’s death, I went back to Somerville. I had unfinished business there. I drove into the city, down the familiar streets of Winter Hill, and pulled into a spot on Highland Ave. It was time to do something with my wedding ring. I walked into Jade Moran’s studio with an idea.
My original plan was to have the ring melted down and completely recreated. Like my life. On fucking fire, hot molten metal flowing into an unknown mould. Burn it all down.
But Jade looked at me and said “Are you SURE you want to melt your ring? It might be a bit…traumatic.”
And I cried.
And she was right.
So we started brainstorming, and within minutes, we had a plan. She would create two new rings to flank my existing ring. The bottom ring would be an organic star scape with aquamarine, amethyst and ruby chips, the birthstones of the children and myself. The top ring would hold a moonstone Moon, Tim’s birthstone, our celestial light. The inside is inscribed with “starstuff”. Like all of us.
My wedding ring would be polished and resized to fit on my middle finger, leaving my ring finger empty. Like the gaping hole in my heart. Free to be whatever it is.
They arrived today, my rings. My Widow Rings. I slipped them on my finger and made a silent commitment to myself and my children. We will move forward together. Tim will always be a part of us. We keep going. With these rings, I, me, wed.