On August 7, 2004 Tony and I spoke those words to each other. We exchanged rings and vows and promises to stay together until death parted us. In that sense, Tony kept his vow; but I never expected that he would choose death.
The night that Tony died, one of the police officers ( as awful as that night was I was so blessed to have the people around me that I did. San Diego’s finest are more than fine. They’re fantastic.) handed me Tony’s wedding ring. I put it on my right hand. I wore it there for a while, and then I wore it on a chain. Sometimes I’ve worn it inside a beautiful Victorian mourning locket that my beloved sister-in-law gave me.
My own ring is actually too big for me now. I’ve lost quite a bit of weight in the past six months, and Tony’s ring is smaller than mine. Now I am wearing his ring in place of my own, the ring I gave him in place of the one he gave me.
I’m not ready to take it off. I still feel married, in spite of the fact that my husband is dead and has been for more than three months. It’s just a piece of metal, but it’s not. It symbolizes so much. When I looked at Tony on that beautiful August day and promised to love him and honor him in sickness and in health, I meant that. His sickness ended up being something that consumed him. That at times threatened to consume both of us.
I do not regret that promise. I am sure that someday, sometime in the unknowable future, I will remove this ring and put it away. I am sure, at some point, that I will log onto Facebook and decide that I no longer see myself as married, and I will change my relationship status to something else. I don’t think of myself as a widow. I actually hate that word, and I can’t imagine applying it to myself. But “single” feels completely wrong too. A lot of the time, “alone” feels like the right word, but that’s not a relationship status so much as it is an emotion.
I wonder how people do this? I think some people probably never take off that ring that their loved one placed on their finger. A few times, I have taken it off, just for a minute, just to see how it feels. I feel naked without it. It’s become a part of my finger, left a mark that is more than just a slight indentation in my flesh. It’s on my heart, too. Even if I remove it and put it away, and that indentation fades until nobody can tell by looking that it was there, nothing can erase the mark it has left on my heart.