I have taken off my wedding ring- not permanently because I don’t wish for my wearing or not wearing of the ring to mean “too much.” I am in no way “better.” I am in no way “available.” It’s a lovely piece of jewelry lovingly chosen by you that I have always loved wearing (You don’t understand how many books I had to look through to find one like the one you showed me!) One day I simply forgot to wear it. I realized I’d reached the point another widow had mentioned many months ago on her blog when someone asked her when she’d take off her ring and she answered “When I don’t feel married anymore.” It’s not that my heart isn’t yours anymore- but just that I don’t feel married I guess. I feel alone. I clearly have no partner in this earthly life. That’s why I’m so frickin tired.
Instead I wear a simple silver band- you had a matching one that’s in my jewelry box and is almost identical to your wedding band. We bought these matching rings on a city street somewhere only a few months after we’d met and fell instantly in love. I think we called them promise rings. And they meant that we had a future together. I am at ease wearing this ring lately because it feels more truthful.
I have also experienced for the first time what is referred to as the “waves” of grief. People who have never experienced grief or have on a much lesser scale have been telling me for fifteen months now, “It comes in waves right?” in empathetic tone- to which I’d always have to respond- “Well, no, not really…it is with me every moment- there is no contrast.” But now, although I don’t forget- I am sometimes distracted enough, or simply have reached my limit of months for the level of intense processing I was doing- so that, it will suddenly hit me more ferociously and I will gasp and cry. Then the wave comes. So I finally have these more intense waves from time to time. There is now some contrast.
In the very early days, someone, I think another young widow, asked me if I would give up having known and loved you to avoid this incredible pain. I had to think about it- it was so raw and I was in such shock but I fairly quickly knew the answer was no. But later, much later- even a month or so ago, I began to think maybe the answer was yes. It’s too painful. Now I am back to no. I would not give you up. If I had to, I’d choose the love, and pain, again.
Audrey and I drove by a cemetery the other week (not yours) and she noticed it and asked if “that’s appa’s special place?” I told her no but that if she ever wanted to go, I would take her. She said she did and she wanted to bring flowers, so this morning she picked out red spray roses and we went. We sang songs, placed the flowers, and I prayed (and cried). The sun filtered through the clouds in the distance over the Manhattan skyline and I took a few photos although you can barely make out the buildings. For the first time, I saw a hint of beauty in that wretched place. “We miss you and love you, honor you and respect you, and trust you are in God’s loving arms.” We leave.
Then we visit a nearby church someone has invited us to. Afterwards they serve lunch. There are many Korean men there and I notice Audrey looking around as she eats. “Remember that dream I had about appa?” she asks. “Yes, I do…” I realize though now, that though Audrey will forget, at least consciously, many or most things about you, she will, in the end, be alright. I will make sure of it. I tell her all the time that love never dies and that if she forgets everything else, all she needs to know is that she loved you and you loved her- very, very much.
I went to counseling last week for the first time in a month or so and realized at some point while we talked that for the first time, I understood why I was there in that office speaking about this sad story to this woman. Every other meeting in the past fifteen months- I would ask myself quietly why I was there and if it was real. I tell her that I’ve packed up your clothes, finished the death-related paperwork, and stopped wearing my beautiful wedding ring. She tells me I keep pushing forward and have done so much since we last met and she knows how exhausting it all is….how much energy it takes. Before I go, she tells me that I look pretty- that my countenance has changed.
All of this, I suppose, is getting me an A plus in grieving. It is “progress”- and the worst kind of progress I’ve ever achieved in my life.