One day, sitting across from my husband in an Italian restaurant, I noticed him fiddling with his ring. The little gold band circled around his finger as he turned it. “Why do you do that?” I asked him. “Because it’s comforting to remind myself that I’m married, to think about being your husband.”
On August 4, 2012, Eric and I said our vows to each other on the maroon colored steps of Faith Church. With wedding rings we bound up all our hopes into one another, all of our forevers, our for always, our no matter what happens. We agreed on together “in wealth or poverty, sickness or health, laughter and tears.” Like a circle wound infinitely around our fingers, so love would never part us. At just less than twenty-two years, the thought of death hardly crossed the landscapes of our minds. Not even the threat of a distant reality for some could stunt innocence on that day. My marque cut diamond sparkled with all of the joy and the hope we could imagine.
Death Parted Us
Eric did well, when he chose that gorgeous piece of forever jewelry. It’s shape and size were different from the ring I had loved all my life on my mother’s finger, but similar enough to delight my eyes and little girl dreams. The elegant jewelry felt fit for a princess. Yet, whether or not we acknowledged it, death did part us and so did the time come for the ring to part from my hand.
Less than a month after my widowhood began, I looked down at my ring finger and began twisting my own gold band around and around. It glittered, but it no longer fit exactly the way it was meant to. The diamonds seemed strangely fake, and the gold band almost restrictive.
Telling My truth
I recently read that “speaking your truth” is not necessarily about telling others what you believe about the world, or about God, or anything exegetical, theological, philosophical, or moral at all. Instead, “your truth” is what is happening in your life, what are the boundaries and butterflies that line your thought processes, your emotions, physical space and relationships.
When my husband died, and I became a widow, I also became a not-wife. The Truth can never be changed because it belongs to a limitless God. But my own limited truth – my reality, my surroundings, my story, and my passions were inevitably altered. Therefore, the infinity circle no longer represented what it was intended to explain. My wedding ring was telling an earthen story that was no longer true, and so I felt the need to evict it from my hand.
For a little while, I wore the ring anyway. Not only was it a gorgeous piece of jewelry, but I felt secure and somehow protected when I wore it. In the grocery store, I felt that the presence of the ring on my finger warded away assuming glares from fellow shoppers when I walked alone with my children, or lingering looks from men. For a little while, the ring was an asset far beyond its financial value or connection to a memory.
But before long, the safety it supposedly brought me was also a compelling reason to remove it. Taking off the ring meant that I might get more stares from people wondering about the single mom. It meant men might see that I was no longer married. It felt vulnerable, and honest, to leave my left hand bare… but that is exactly what I wanted to be. While my world had changed, my identity had not. Walking single did not mean living life alone, but rather bringing my truth to myself and to whoever cared to look.
My three and five-year-old boys are incredible question askers. One day recently, he asked “Mama, why don’t you wear your ring anymore?” He wonders this often when we see married people with rings on their fingers. I told him that I had removed the ring because I was no longer married, which he seemed to understand in a matter-of-fact way, and that I had put it in a safe spot.
Someday, when and if they want to use it, I will give the ring Eric gave me to one of our children or grandchildren for his own bride. Maybe someday instead, I will be blessed with a granddaughter who has an affinity for pretty jewelry, or a love of vintage things, and I will tell her my story. The ring was mine to wear, and now it is mine to give.
Still, The Spot
Many married people – for a season, many reasons, or no reason at all – choose not to wear their wedding rings. It is my suspicion that these people have not wrapped up truth in a piece of gold or given sentimentality to an object. In many ways, I admire these people. However, I am not one of them. My own big emotions often take their mark from vivid memories and those memories live in associated objects. Instead of denying it, or trying to overcome it, I have chosen to embrace and move forward with this understanding of the way I relate to my world.
Six years later, the tan lines have faded and the slight divot has mostly been filled. Yet, as I look at the space once cloaked in forever, I can still see where it used to sit. I still feel the ring there though I know it is not. When I am missing Eric the most, my thumb finds that spot and caresses lonely skin. Nothing elicits tears below the surface faster than massaging the soft remains between my pinky and middle fingers.
On the hardest days, I do feel alone, though I know I am not. I do feel abandoned, though I know God will never leave me whether or not Eric is beside me. The fact that my ring no longer fits on my finger is often a reminder of my loneliness. But it is also a chance to remember the hope that I have because God’s truth has not and will never change: I am His bride. With or without a ring of gold around my finger, God’s arms surround me in an actually infinite embrace.