Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Other Ring

About four months after Phil's death, I returned to my nail salon for the first time since being widowed. As I sat in the chair trying to keep it together while idle chatter swirled around me, my manicurist looked up and asked if I was going to take off my rings. Absently I handed them to her (my engagement ring, my wedding ring, and Phil's wedding ring were all crowded together on my finger) and she set them down awkwardly on the table next to us. Then she looked up at me and said, "Isn't your husband dead?" At first I was sure I heard her wrong. "Excuse me?" I said. Turns out my hearing was fine, because she repeated herself.

I almost jumped out of my seat. If it weren't for the fact that one hand was in warm water, the other was being filed, and my rings were out of reach...I think I would have run out the door. Instead I stammered something unintelligible, as she indicated that the only reason she asked was because I was still wearing my wedding ring. I felt like I had been slapped. First with insensitivity, and then with reality.

My first instinct was to let her know that I was NEVER going to take them off. But I couldn't find the words. I just twitched in my chair until I was finally free to go. I ran into the parking lot silently quaking. How dare she? What does she know? That is what she thought was an appropriate thing to say to someone whose husband just DIED?! Forget her, forget that remark, forget the idea that my wedding ring told others that I was currently married. But the seed was planted; I couldn't erase her words. Slowly, every time I looked at my rings I was reminded not of my marriage, but of the fact that my husband was dead.

One particularly tearful evening as I sat crying and twirling my rings, I experimented with taking them off. Looking at my bare finger caused an avalanche of feelings which resulted in me laying on the floor in a ball shaking with sobs until I put them back on. I just couldn't imagine an empty place on my hand where the symbol of my commitment, of OUR commitment, belonged. But I couldn't figure out how to keep the reminder of our amazing love and also avoid the uncomfortable assumptions that wearing a wedding ring encouraged.

My solution became clear sort of out of the blue. Phil and I fulfilled our promise to love each other till death do us part. No matter where else my life may take me, I did that. And so did he. In fact, as far as this life is concerned, I will be his one and only wife. To honor that fact, I decided to re-size his wedding ring and wear it on my right ring finger. Tears flowed down my cheeks as I walked away from the jewelers the day I dropped it off, and it took every ounce of control I could muster not to run back in and tell the kind person behind the counter that I changed my mind. But when I slipped Phil's ring on my finger for the first time, I knew I'd done the right thing. He was with me, his love was with me, and I could literally feel the fulfillment of his promise against my skin.

So what became of Phil's ring when another amazing man placed a beautiful new piece of jewelry on my left hand? It stayed put. When I told Michael about the band I wear, and why I wear it, I followed the explanation with the announcement that I planned to continue wearing my right hand ring for an undetermined amount of time. Then I held my breath. His response: "Why wouldn't you? It is a part of who you are now."

And so it is.

I rarely use words like never and forever these days. What I do instead is honor what I need right now. For the moment I still need a physical reminder of what was, and am grateful for the fact that my present is willing to embrace the past that made me who I am today.


  1. You are very lucky to meet such a wondeful man, but if you really think about it isn't it what we all want to be loved and remebered when we die? My journey with trying to figure out what to do with my ring and how to honor my husband and our life together ended when I bought a ring containing his birthstone and then a family ring with all of our birth stones. It was a way to honor the happy life I had.It is simple not to much. The next man I am with will need to get why I wear it,

  2. I'm floored by the insensitivity of that manicurist. And at 4 months I know that the shock of everything is still so raw that I wouldn't have known what to say either. (I'm at almost a year now, so at this point I'd have a few choice words to share and then would probably have to find a new manicurist!)

    I'm still wearing my rings and Dave's ring is on my left thumb. Not sure when that will change as I don't really care to change it.

    And congratulations again on your new ring!

  3. Julie Richards Di BeneMay 29, 2011 at 8:49 AM

    I love this Michelle, Thank You! I had my ring resized and wear it on my middle finger of my left hand,Jeffrey had designed it himself so it's never going far. It's still there to 'fiddle' with when I need to...I hope I am blessed to meet a man even half as understanding as yours!!

  4. I love this, Michelle! Love the wedding picture so much, too. The idea that we fulfilled the honor and the obligation of love til death parted us stays with me constantly. The idea that this love continues and evolves well past my husband's death is something I discuss with only a chosen few, as people tend to get freaked by the idea that this love is somehow more spooky and unexplainable than that same love between two people in the same physical realm. Believe me, I am surprised by this adaptation and continuation of love too - this was not something I expected to feel.

    I still wear my rings, on the third finger of my left hand. This does not mean I will always wear them. It doesn't mean I will never give and accept love from another. It does mean that only someone who knows me well enough to know why I wear the rings will be allowed to enter into relationship with the person I am now - the person that was shaped by this marriage, the person that continues to hold, to accept and to give the love of the husband I once had.

  5. Thank you for this post. It has been almost two years and I still wear my wedding bands. I finally put my husband's ring in my jewelry box after I wore it on my thumb for awhile. I took my rings off last week while gardening and tried to leave them off for a week. I was ok with it, but it is still so hard so I put them back on. I like reading other people's ideas on how to go through this and what i could do. It is such a symbol of 22 years together and absolutely my best friend. I am so thrilled you have met such an understanding new man. I wish you many happy years together.

  6. That manicurist was beyond insensitive! What a nightmare, I hate being blindsided. I'm at 19 months, still wearing my band on my left ring finger. My husbands' ring is too big for any of my fingers. I wore it on a chain around my neck for a couple of months, then took it off, but I always keep it with me (in my purse) wherever I go. I took mine off for a day here and there, but it so uncomfortable not to wear it. I feel insecure and like a traitor. I like your solution. I've thought about switching my ring to my right hand, but never thought about having his resized and wearing it. It's a good idea, though, it makes sense. During my entire 28 year marriage, no one ever asked me if I was married (guess my rings made it obvious). For some weird reason, I have been asked that question twice in the past 19 months, even though I have a ring on. Both times I have been so caught off guard that I have stared at the person and could not talk, and felt like my brain exploded. Then I was able to mumble something about being widowed. Problem is, I still feel married. That has not changed. I still feel married completely, like our souls are still very much joined. Maybe I'm crazy. So I don't know how to handle that question very well. Thanks for another good post.

  7. At six months I moved my wedding ring to my right hand, and there it has remained since and will remain, as far as I'm concerned, until I die. If I ever fall in love again (which, right now, at fifteen months after the loss of my only love, feels like a BIG if), I hope my new man is as understanding as yours. Well, he'd have to be or I wouldn't fall in love with him.

  8. I am so afraid of losing my rings that I have taken them off and put them on the chain with his pendants that he always wore, and have hung them over George's photo on my bedside cabinet, at least I know that my rings and Georges chain are safe - I did wear the chain at first, but it has broken a few times I think being so old, and it would be a disaster to lose it, so I only wear it now on very special occassions - like family events, weddings etc.....

  9. This was yet again here when I needed to read it. Thanks for the posts.

  10. At 20 months out, I still wear my wedding rings. I wear my diamond band & engagement ring on my left hand (it was the ring we renewed our vows with and a 10th anniversary gift from my husband). My original gold band and his band I wear together on a chain around my neck, sometimes I take of the chain and pin the bands together into my bra (close to my heart) - for me I still feel married in my heart and soul and for now I have no intensions of taking them off -ever......I don't know what the future holds but it's how I feel now, I've dealt with enough change - I don't need to change my rings for society - in my heart my Mike is still my husband.