Grief is a sacred journey

My Wedding Ring, My Lucky Charm

DSC02931I took my wedding ring off on the first anniversary of my husband Vic’s death. The next morning, I put it back on. Vic dead. Me alive. Definitely still married.

I removed the ring a few months later and gave it a place of honor on my altar. Ok, I accept that I’m a widow. I hated the finality of the widow word and his body’s absence, but it was time to leave the ring behind.

And I did for a few days, until I felt naked without the reminder of Vic’s love and put it on again. At some point, I stopped wearing my wedding ring and left it on my altar within a grief bracelet that Lauren made for me. Giving up the ring for good was like having a last period. I wasn’t sure it was the last until long after it was over.

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Wedding ring near Vic’s image on altar

I often slipped the ring on my finger for just a moment, kissed it, and twirled it with my thumb. I remembered 1968 when we stopped at a rest area in eastern Nebraska on our way to San Francisco. The ring and marriage were new and the silver relief rough, so I put the ring on the blanket we had spread on the grass for yoga. When we made camp in western Nebraska that night, I sobbed when I realized the ring was gone. Vic packed the car and off we drove to eastern Nebraska where at dawn after a futile flashlight search through the grass at the rest area, we found the ring riding under the back door of the station wagon. It had been with us all the way.

We didn’t care that we’d lost a night’s sleep and a day’s drive. We had the ring and each other.

We bought the silver ring in a hippie import shop for $8. It says in one translation, “He is my beloved and I am his.” The characters on the ring are Hebrew, from the Song of Solomon, although I was a lapsed Presbyterian and Vic a lapsed Catholic.

For the last three years, the ring stayed on my altar. I admired it, but didn’t need its reassurance. Then in late October, my hearing went beserk with clanging and banging, drumming and humming. I was diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease, a disorder of the inner ear.

“You’re lucky,” the otolaryngologist said. “No dizziness, no nausea, no swirling, just tinnitus and hearing loss. Must be your good diet saving you from the worst.”

I tried to feel lucky as the droning hums increased my isolation and made communication exhausting and imprecise. I depended on lip reading, so phone calls became impossible. I tried to envision a life of solitude as I waited for new hearing aids and more technological support. I refused to let this stop me.

A month ago, dizziness struck. A stumble against a friend progressed to sitting on the sidewalk, unable to walk, unable to stand. Friends and family held my hand and worried over me. Waves of imbalance and vertigo lasting an hour or more came without pattern and with increasing frequency. In case I had any doubt, I now knew I was not in control.

I longed for the protection I had felt in marriage. I needed to feel loved as Vic loved me, as we loved each other, so I slipped my wedding ring on my left ring finger one morning and left it there, twirling, kissing, and feeling safe.

Recently, I found a medicine that keeps lightheadedness from progressing to butt-on-the-floor desperation and my new hearing aid technology helps with telephones and all communication. Feeling stronger, I took my wedding ring off my hand and hung it from a chain around my neck. And there it sits over my heart as I find new balance–my amulet, my lucky charm, my medicine bundle, my symbol of undying protective love.

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What does your wedding ring mean to you? For other blogs about my early marriage, see My Hippie Wedding or The Art of Argument. For more about hearing loss, see Whispers and Roars.

28 Comments
  1. so lovely once again. Brought tears.Thanks Elaine. I love getting little tastes of you and your life!!1MUCH LOVE TO YOU!

    • Thank you for reading and for commenting with such love, Lori. Yes, so much love and, at least so far, that part of my partnership with Vic doesn’t fade. I’m grateful for this great gift.

      • It’s damned hard, let me tell you…. Of course I have my beloved with me, and he only needs me. But I want more women in my life, so I will continue to try and connect. For us, we will continue to lose people and have lost many. I need people because I realize the restriction and know that one of us will most likely go without the other and I have no one here to help. If that happens and it’s me that’s left. I will most likely come back to Ithaca, unless my life significantly changes here and so will Richard/Buck if he’s the one. For now, I will try to continue with finding people and see where that leaves me now that I am able to move again. But also, I know I am happy being alone a lot. So, I don’t need a million people who are charitable to me. Just a few that truly care about me and who I am as a human being.

        • I love life’s synchronicities. I just put the finishing touches on a blog about Baby David’s baptism in 1971 when you and Richard became his godparents. The blog goes up at my website today. I used great photos of the occasion, including a few sweet ones of you and Richard with David. As I worked on this piece this week, I thought about those days and times and our old friendship. After I scheduled the blog, I looked at new comments and found one from you.

          I wrote this post about my wedding ring four years ago, so grief has eased in some ways–but not all ways. I miss Vic and still feel deeply connected to him. I think that will always be the case. Today would have been his 76th birthday, so I’m thinking of him more than usual. I also need friendship, particularly with women, and continue to find new connections through writing and hospice work. I’m sure you’ll find people you love in Boulder. Rumor has it you’ll visit Ithaca this summer. I look forward to seeing you.

  2. Why does this blog make me cry? Maybe it is something about your (all of our) vulnerability that brings the tears. Or perhaps it is the profound shared love you express. Whatever it is, it is very tender.
    It is striking how one small strip of silver imbued with your thoughts can bring solace. What power in thought.
    I love the transition from finger to altar to wearing it near your heart. Beautiful. You certainly are finding a new balance.
    My wedding ring looks like a Mayan temple posing as a ring! An old mutual friend of ours made it. It has the steps of a pyramid and my grandmother’s diamond sits nestled on top in between symbols that are common to both the Mayans and the Tibetans, two cultures that Chuck and I are close to. On the underside is a small glyph which is the center of the Mayan calendar and it means ‘movement’. To me the symbol of change. Like the dancing Siva, incorporating destruction and creation, life is always in motion as the cosmos circles in the eternal movement of our existence.
    We like creation and often don’t want to see the face of destruction or dissolutions. Thank you Elaine for putting heartfelt words to this face as you lean into the bitting wind of powerful change. It is one of your great strengths. Your transform its power into a loving exchange with all of us.

    • I love hearing your description of your wedding ring and the “movement” glyph. Yes, all in movement, all in a process of change, coming and going. And I hold dearly on my altar and wear the bracelet you made for me for those first 49 days saying, “Death. Honor it’s power to give/take.” And so it is–change, vulnerability, birth, dissolution, life, death, and Love that holds it all.

  3. Elaine, it was good to learn about your relationship with your wedding ring after Vic’s death. I haven’t tried to take mine off yet (it’s been almost two years), and I don’t know if I will. I don’t wear much jewelry, but this ring just feels like part of me.

    Thank you again, for your beautiful writing.

    Lynne

    • Lynne, a few years back it felt right to say to myself and the world that I was no longer married. After nearly five years, I still feel inwardly close to Vic and my wedding ring is the best symbol of the loving mutual support we shared. I needed that support recently. I imagine I’ll take the wedding ring off the chain at some point and put it back on my altar. But who knows? Thanks for telling me that your ring feels like part of you. I get it.

  4. Hi Elaine.
    My ring has never been off. I doubt that as a widow I would feel the need to take it off then. I think it will be on my finger when I die then passed on to my daughter I will always feel married if only to his spirit

    • Thanks for telling me this story, Patt. I took the ring off over three years ago to help myself accept that my marriage was no longer embodied, that Vic the person wasn’t coming back. Clearly, I put the ring back on to feel the spirit and love of the marriage. I haven’t thought about where my ring should go after my death, but you make me consider that issue. Wishing you well and wishing us all spring flowers.

  5. Elaine,
    Your open heart reminds me, like Pema, to “stay.” I am so impressed with your willingness to be vulnerable. Vic was a lucky man. And I suspect he knew it.

    Thank you for modeling love.

    Ava

    • Ava, I was willing to be vulnerable with Vic from the moment I laid eyes on him when I was 21. I was immediately sure; he was cautious. I couldn’t hide how in love I was. Later, he said I taught him how to love, but I think it went both ways. He was always willing, even when he was sick, to be with my struggles and joys as well as his own. I appreciate your loving encouraging words.

  6. Poignant, powerful, honest, beautiful. I love your writing, Elaine. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself. ~Ann

    • How encouraging you are, Ann. And I love your honest writing about Alzheimer’s and your mom’s death and admire your sense of mission about Alzheimer’s and care for the elderly. Thank you for the work you do and thanks for your support.

  7. Elaine, this is so dear. I find it impossible to buy myself jewelry, especially rings. I appreciate the love and history of a ring much more than the silver, gold and diamond – value. But what I appreciate the most is the story of love and all the memories and warmth a ring can bring back on the days you feel like hiding in a hole. Thank you for sharing your stories. Hugs!

    • Robin, besides Suki, do you have special things that belonged to Marika that bring you comfort? Did she have jewelry or knick-knacks? Of course, you have her poems, the best thing of all. I have Vic’s photos and someday someone will have yours, as well as your stories. Thanks for reading, responding, and encouraging me to write..

  8. My engagement/wedding ring cost $22.50, as did Ves’s. His had more gold, but mine an emerald chip. I now have my Nana’s wedding rings, my Mom’s, and mine. Someday, I would like to have a simple piece of jewelry made from them all, to give to my daughter. I love the thought of you wearing yours on your heart.

    • Barb, I love the idea of one piece of jewelry carrying the matriarchal love that will go to your daughter. I still wear my wedding ring over my heart for now. I’ll wear it until one day–who knows when or why–I’ll take it off again, but it will always be with me in memory no matter if it’s on my body or my altar. Thanks for telling me about your ring and rings.

  9. wow! so inspiring. My husband, Don, passed 3 years ago this past February. I, to, occasionally take my rings off but always feel so naked without them. Don worked as a printer and could not wear his ring. I wear his wedding band as well. They seem to give me the courage and strength to face each day. I figure some day I wont need them any more. Its nice to know that I’m not the only one who has felt this way. thank you.

    • Thank you, Susie. I’m sorry you lost your husband. Now that I’ve been through this loss, I know that three years isn’t long at all for the huge transition. Vic never felt comfortable wearing rings, so didn’t have one, but if he did, I might be wearing that band as well. Similar to you, my love and the ring as a symbol of that love help me build a strong foundation for my new life. I also find it comforting to know that other women have similar experiences. Maybe that’s why I love leading bereavement groups! Thanks so much for reading my blog and for taking the time to respond. Wishing you a joyful spring.

  10. Hi Elaine,
    I remember wearing my wedding rins so proudly. It was simple but beautiful. It had three bands, two yellow gold and the center was a band of white gold with three tiny diamonds. It was 1983 and it cost us $400.00. I loved my ring and all it meant. Five years after Joe died I was in dire straights financially. WIth four children to raise and Christmas coming, I made the choice to sell my jewelry including my engagement ring and wedding band so I could buy presents. To this day, I regret it. I couldn’t bring myself to sell Joe’s wedding band. I remember when the hospice team handed it to me. It’s promised to my eldest son for when he gets married.

    • Oh Audrey, what we sometimes have to do to survive. Your ring sounds beautiful and you used it to take care of your family in the best way you could at that time. I’m glad you have your husband’s ring and that it will be passed on to your son. I always remember that there will be a time that I’ll have to give up everything I hold dear, including my body, just as I had to give up Vic’s body. In that light, no material object seems very important. Thank you for sharing your story and opening my heart just a little wider today.

  11. What a beautifully authentic piece of writing, Elaine. Thank you for expressing the precise and nuanced process of letting go, then taking back, and letting go again, and again… You give us all permission to feel our way through grief. A great gift…

    • Thank you, Andrea. I find this grieving goes in surprising cycles and that I’m always in relationship with it. Today I begin facilitating a Hospice bereavement support group for women–my third group, but this time the largest with 9 women and many with new losses. I am well prepared, but depend on the Divine Feminine to be at my side. I loved receiving your newsletter in what I find the world’s most pleasing colors and imagining the seedlings on your windowsill.

  12. Elaine,
    I am so glad that you shared this link when you read my wedding ring post. Amazing how many times I read, “I felt/feel naked without them,” the last 3 words the title of my post.
    Your story was so touching and shows so well how much of a roller coaster grieving can be. I also agree that you help others accept that all these feelings are okay.
    The comments and your replies added so much–made it a conversation…This reply really made me stop and think, “I always remember that there will be a time that I’ll have to give up everything I hold dear, including my body, just as I had to give up Vic’s body. In that light, no material object seems very important.”
    Thank you for so much,
    Patti

    • Thank you, Patti, sister in love and loss. So much life still to be lived and good to be done. After five years, I feel Vic’s love surrounding me more than ever–not his physical presence or the individual man, but the huge love we shared remains in my heart. Love made me blossom, and I still can bloom.

  13. My original wedding ring, a skinny one, sits in felt in my jewelry box. Cliff made two wider sterling silver ones in his graduate class in metals which we wear now.

    My diamond engagement ring was flushed down the commode (we think) by an unsupervised little 3-year-old daughter. It’s just a thing, of the material world. Still, I feel sad and embarrassed to have lost it since my young fiance had sacrificed to buy it for me.

    • Ah, a three-year-old experimenting with the flushing mechanism again. I smile now, but I’m sure it hurt like crazy at the time. It’s lovely that Cliff (many talented man that he is) made your wedding rings. And that the original one is still safely with you. As a location update, my wedding ring hangs on the wrist of a statue of a dancing Ganesh. The statue was Vic’s and dances next to a photo of Vic. I polish the silver once in a while. After I polish it, I often wear it for a short time.

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