About three weeks ago, I went to visit my mother in law for what would turn out to be one of the last times. She was slightly delirious, I think, and was twisiting her wedding ring around on her finger. Sometime during the last year, her engagement ring had disappeared, which isn't an unusal occurrence in nursing homes I'm sure, but it saddened me nevertheless. I didn't want her wedding ring to get lost as well, so I took it off her finger and placed it on my own. I've been wearing it ever since.
Somehow, when I placed that small gold band on the middle finger of my right hand, it immediatly felt comfortable, settled, not the least bit foreign. As a matter of fact, it felt odd that night when I took it off before bed, and I was anxious to put it back on the next day. Every morning since then, I've put it on right after I put my own wedding ring on...it's already a practiced, habitual part of my morning routine.
When she died two weeks ago, I considered placing it back on her finger before she was cremated. As we drove to the nursing home that morning, and then again to the funeral home that afternoon, I kept twisting it round and round on my own hand, trying to decide what to do. But somehow, the thought of this little ring being destroyed pierced my heart- I felt as if I needed to keep wearing it, needed to keep it safe for at least the remainder of my lifetime.
Today, I was cleaning out my kitchen sink, scrubbing some stains and then rinsing it with hot water. The ring clattered a little bit on the stainless steel- the same sound I heard it make many times when she herself was rinsing out this very same sink, in this house which she built and where she spent most of her married life. She always cooked Thanksgiving dinner here at our house...it was about the only meal she ever cooked for us, but it became a tradition and probably the one my son remembers most fondly. After an absence of many years, today her ring was back cleaning that kitchen-a task she undertook with great pleasure.
I don't know how long I'll wear this ring. Sometimes I look at it and set arbitrary timetables in my mind - first I thought "until her ashes are buried," but that was done on Tuesday. Perhaps until their wedding anniversary (November 21), or until her headstone is carved. Maybe until her birthday (September 11) or her death day (September 13).
I realize that at this moment, I'm wearing three true "keepsake" diamonds...my own wedding ring, my mother's diamond engagement ring which (I've made into a pendant I wear around my neck) and my mother in law's tiny diamond encrusted wedding band.
They are all good reminders of the lives of women.