Friday, September 16, 2011

The Ring That Binds Us

1st day with 1st iPhone
This week's "What If" question asks "What if you could take one thing with you when you die?" The question is compelling because it asks us to place an enormous value upon an item, a thing, something material. This is not the same as the age-old "What's the one thing you would grab if your house was burning down and all lives were already saved?" at least it is not the same to me. The latter question has always been one of practicality, of survival, some sentimentality and moving on. My answer to the latter is always my iPhone, so that I could call for help, have all of the contact information for my friends and family and also have a camera with a large number of recent photos stored in it.

When thinking about what I would like to take with me after I die, though, the iPhone loses all value. AT&T already has crappy service in some parts of Staten Island when I try to make calls, so I am sure that wherever I end up  after I die, I won't be able to use it as a phone. I also have no idea if there will be any charging stations, so, while the idea of a camera intrigues me, I don't know how long it would last. Finally, surprisingly, when thinking about this question, pictures did not rank as things I would like to have with me.

So, having ruled out the iPhone, I was left asking myself some questions:
  • What is the thing that I would bring with me? 
  • To a place and time where I think materials would no longer hold meaning? 
  • What is it that I possess that somehow means more than what it actually is? 
  • What item would I carry with me after death?
It suddenly hit me. There is one thing I have that means so much more than what it actually is. Of course, what it is is pretty impressive on its own, but even when people (even strangers) stop me to tell me this, I know that they don't even know how magnificent it really is.

The one thing that I would take with me, if I could, when I die would be my engagement ring.

It's a beautiful ring. Many people notice it when I wear it and ask to see it. I can't blame them, I have always loved it myself and I don't even like jewelery all that much, but from the moment I saw it I knew that when I got married that was the kind of ring I wanted.

So where did I first see this ring? On my mother's hand. My engagement ring is my mother's engagement ring and for that  it means more than what it actually is.

I had no idea this would be my ring. My discussion with my, then boyfriend, was, "All I know is that I like my mother's ring." I knew nothing more about the subject, but all the other stuff we looked at didn't appeal to me. Knowing how much I loved the ring, my husband and mother did some sort of behind the scenes negotiations.
When, on a cold January night, my boyfriend, then fiance, slipped this ring on my finger I was so overwhelmed. First of all, I was going to marry my best friend (finally!!). We had such dreams of our life to come and where our journey together would take us. I was freezing my butt off, but that wasn't the only reason I was shaking! I didn't even notice the ring at first. I didn't even care (is that the worst?). Then he finally asked, "Did you see the ring?" It was kind of dark, so I didn't recognize it at first, but it looked beautiful. "It's your mother's. Well, now it's yours, but you know what I mean."

I knew what he meant. I understood his words, but a whole new feeling washed over me. I realized, in that moment, that we weren't the only ones rooting for all of the wonderful in our life ahead. I mean, this was the ring that my father had picked out. I felt, even though he was no longer with us, this was a sign that he gave his blessing to us. My parents loved each other and created a beautiful family, I felt with this ring we were destined to do the same. I felt the ring symbolized the true birth of my new family fully embraced by my whole family.

So, when, six months after our engagement, my mother was shockingly taken from us by cancer, the ring's sentimental value exploded exponentially for me. The ring symbolizes everything that I hold in my heart:
  • my husband and our love and life together
  • my mother and father who were both taken away too soon
  • my brother who is here, just like me, because our dad bought this ring 40 years ago and our mom accepted it
Since I have no children of my own to pass this on to (yet), I believe this is the thing I would bring with me when I die. To keep all those things dear to me. It's better than a picture because it does not freeze them in a stagnant pose for an eternity, instead it refreshes those feelings of love acceptance, friendship, laughter and comfort I have had with all associated with it.

It's beautiful. It sparkles. It is incredibly special. However, for me, it is all those things without even looking at it, just feeling it on my finger is all I need.
This post is written as part of the What IF? Project hosted here on the Rivera Runs Through It Blog. Each week a new "What if?" question is presented and I do my best to respond to the query.  You are invited to as well. This week's "What if?" was

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