A melancholy date with St. Anthony
I lost John’s wedding ring this past Friday.
Yes, I re-traced my footsteps.
Yes, I looked in all the places I had been.
Yes, I shook out clothes, checked in the drains, went through the trash, dug under piles of stuff, and searched and searched and searched until it made me too sad to search more.
No, I could not find it.
And yes, I know that it is only an object, merely a thing, and things get lost. There’s all kinds of the standard words I can pacify myself with about how it’s Not That Bad or that it Could Be Worse because c’mon, it’s only a thing and a very small one at that.
It was a platinum band with a slightly thinner gold layer on top of it. On the inside, it was engraved: JLS to ASG 9-15-90. We bought it at the Tiny Jewel Box on Connecticut Avenue in Washington DC the summer before we married, all filled with the eager anticipation of joy for the life that lay ahead of us.
I wore it on a necklace along with a little charm of the Space Needle and a gold charm of Texas, all three together connecting where we met and where we parted. When I didn’t have the necklace on, I wore it on my middle finger or behind another ring, as it was slightly too big for my ring fingers. But I never, ever was without it. John wore it from the day I put it on his finger and I wore it from the day he had to remove it in the hospital, just before he died.
It’s only been a few days since it slipped off my hand as I went about my day but I feel unbalanced without it. I’m off kilter, like something has shifted and I can’t quite keep up with the world, like I have been exposed. I always felt it surrounded me with some kind of magic — it protected and it gave me a little shot of courage no matter what I was facing. It made me feel like that promise we made all those years ago had not died along with the physical presence of John. With it on, that life I had planned and worked for was somehow still around me, even though John’s death had profoundly altered the course of those expectations. It made me feel I was not alone, ever.
I generally do not feel alone, even when I am by myself. Let us turn for a reading to the Book of Merle 4:20 “It’s great to be single, it’s hell to be lonely”. I am lucky enough not to be lonely. I’m blessed with deeply loving family and friends. I enjoy a busy life with dogs I adore, rewarding work I enjoy and a home I am happy to be in. I have a strong network of unquestioning love and support I can turn to at any time, sometimes even without asking. I’m deeply grateful for all that I have and for the life I have rebuilt, once again filled with possibilities and anticipation.
None of that has changed with the disappearance of this ring.
But I am so sad without it. I feel its absence on my hand like a weight, like an empty gold circle on my soul. I have lost even more of John and I have let his memory down by letting this symbol slip (quite literally) through my fingers. The farther away I go from his life as my own is moving on, there is a sadness at seeing his memory — the life he had — grow ever more dim and abstract. That ring was a conscious reminder of what we once had and of what he once was.
A friend, who had also lost her husband a few years ago, said that maybe John took it back. And that maybe he would give it back to me again some day, when I was least expecting it. Perhaps. Or perhaps not. It could be found somehow and returned to me or it could be lost for good. Many years ago when I was a teenager, my father gave me a ring he had brought home from his service overseas in World War II. I lost it while working as a lifeguard one summer at a local lake. I remember how sad he was, although he was kind and philosophical about its loss, it clearly represented quite a bit to him. I still feel guilty about it. That tangible item of a very different time and place didn’t erase the memory of his remarkable experiences. But it added to those memories being even more faded and propelled him further away from who he once was.
My father is gone, John is gone and John’s ring is now gone. Just one more small piece missing, changed and chipped away. I am well aware I will lose much more ahead, more than just the things, and those losses will also make me feel alone and sad. I’ll lose not just those I love, but the things that remind me of who they were, who I was, who we were together. I know too I will get through somehow, perhaps a bit more scarred but still trying to rebuild.
But now I have to do it without the little talisman that reminded me each and every day of the life I once shared and the hopeful, perfect round, golden shape it once took.