Some years ago, on a trip to the North-East to see Gail’s family, Gail was asked by her Grandmother “Is your wedding ring in the shape of an H so your sister (Heather) can have it when you die?”.
It was one of those slack-jaw moments that provoked restrained anger and humour in the same instance. That comment pretty much engendered the same reaction over the years whenever the ring was mentioned – I’d often tease her about it if I found her wedding ring left on her bedside cabinet: “You want me to send this off to your sister now?” – except in the one period when it might have been thought to have had the greatest relevance.
You see, on our holiday to Marmaris, just a month before she passed away, I took Gail to a jewellers to buy her an eternity ring; something she wanted for her birthday. While there, I asked her if she wanted to have her wedding ring cleaned and resized. We’d bought it the self-same shop fifteen years earlier so it seemed a nice idea to return it to them for some work. I thought it might help her get over her fear of losing it if it fitted better. I was aware I might have to have it resized again if, as I prayed, she got better and put her weight back on, but it seemed a small price to pay to keep her happy.
The ring looked beautiful when it came back. It shone brilliantly, fitted perfectly and with her new eternity ring, she was able to wear both proudly for a short period before her hospitalisation (n.b. Just for the record here I’m just choked up typing this out). We never spoke about the rings again though.
When your loved one is being laid-out before the funeral, the Funeral Director will ask if there is any jewellery or anything you want the deceased to wear, while warning you not to make it anything too expensive. However, I had Gail wearing several Swarovski items I’d bought her over the years that cost £150+ each, but it was important to me that she looked as she would have done on a normal day so I didn’t hesitate for a moment in allowing these items to go, nor have I regretted it for a moment since. Yet, even though she was wearing her pink wedding dress, I didn’t put her wedding ring on.
Somewhere in the back of my mind – but try as I may I can’t remember when, why, or for what reason it was discussed – I know we talked about this and I somehow knew the expectation was she wouldn’t be cremated with her wedding ring; that I’d keep it with me as a symbol of our marriage. But what you don’t anticipate after is, though it may not burn in one way, that ring sure burns in another.
The fact is, unless you can somehow utilise it as a pendant or use it in some other fashion, the wedding ring is an awful artefact that just eats away in your soul; a symbol of something you had, have no longer and will never have again. And, of course, I can’t do anything with either the wedding ring or the barely-worn eternity ring. I can’t sell them – that wouldn’t feel right and, irony of ironies, pretty much like Gail when she was wearing them, I’m terrified of losing them, so they are locked away where I rarely even look at them.
On Gail’s first birthday after her passing in July, just before I went out for her day, I did get the wedding ring out and looked at it. I felt I needed to take it with me that day but was wary of just putting it in my wallet or putting it on a chain, instead I slipped it onto my little finger and it fitted perfectly. I wore it for that day but took it off as soon as I got in.
Now you might not think this stuff matters much, but when you’re grieving, things like this this just tear you apart. The fact is though, the left wedding ring is a heartbreaking artefact that serves no purpose except to leave you numb. These here will simply pass onto my kids when I go. I wonder how many wedding rings passed to the next generation and are sold just to pay for a new car or something? Not that I’d begrudge that; in fact, I’ve preempted it by telling my two kids the rough value of the rings and just urged them not to waste the money.
I wish in may ways though I’d just let Gail take the rings with her. I really think I’d have been happier knowing that, rather than having the upsetting ‘small silver item in the drawer’ version of the elephant in the room.
In that black way you do when you’re gripping onto your sanity with your fingernails though, I can almost laugh about this with Gail. You see her Grandmother’s bizarre suggestion may just have been the best idea after all.