By the time my Mom died in July, our family had very few decisions left to make. The family home had been sold, and my parents’ belongings distributed among the children and grandchildren. My oldest brother, primary caretaker for my parents, had been managing their finances for years, so there was little business to be done. All that was left for us to do was grieve. Which we do. Every day.
But there was one more thing. A small thing really. Mom had four pieces of jewelry that, though of little financial value, were precious to her and to us. The pearls she wore on her wedding day. Her 1948 high school class ring. Her modest engagement ring. And her wedding band.
There was no dispute among my three sisters and me about which daughter would receive which piece of jewelry. The wedding pearls are being cared for by my older sister, who will gladly lend them to our children for their wedding days. The class ring is being worn by my younger sister, a lifelong educator. Mom’s tiny engagement ring now belongs to my youngest sister, who played with it as a child. And me? I’m wearing my Mom’s wedding ring.
I am much taller and sturdier than my Mom; her hands were much smaller and more delicate than mine. I assumed that, if I were ever to wear her ring, it would have to be sized to fit. But when it arrived in the mail, it slid on my ring finger as easily as the slipper on Cinderella’s foot. I now wear that narrow band every day, underneath the wide band given me by my husband almost 40 years ago.
I have since learned that, like my own wedding band which is a replacement (my first wedding band was lifted from my jewelry box by a felonious baby sitter twenty years ago), the ring I received from my Mom is also second generation. That’s why it fits so well. And why I cherish it so deeply.
My Mom and I are both cancer survivors. During my cancer treatment eight years ago, my fingers discolored, ballooned and ached from the chemicals. I remember the day I voluntarily, sadly, removed my wedding ring rather than have it cut off. My Mom, on the other hand, would not take her ring off until she had no choice. It was finally cut off her hand and lost in the chaos of cancer treatment. But, when her treatment ended, my father bought her a new ring—a simple, delicate band exactly like the one with which they were wed, but larger than before. Exactly my size.
In the middle of a worldwide health and economic crisis, it may seem odd that I am writing about an antique wedding ring. But it brings me comfort. And a reminder of those things that endure.
I don’t know what these days are like for you, but I find myself anxious, aimless, easily irritated, often near tears. I worry for you and for my family. I fear for those whose homes and livelihoods teeter with uncertainty. I pray for policy makers and economists and health care professionals who are often flying as blind as the rest of us. And as I worry and fear and pray, I find myself, absently, twirling that delicate band on my aging left hand.
When I started writing you this morning, it was with information. I wanted to tell you about the faithfulness of our Congregation Council and leaders. I wanted to tell you about the joy and determination with which our staff works together, though remotely. I wanted to tell you what I’m thinking about the next weeks and months of our life together. I wanted to remind you to like us on Facebook, check out our YouTube channel, pick up your palms Sunday afternoon.
But, as I wrapped my hands around the day’s first cup of tea, I saw the rings. The ring of promise between my husband and me, the ring of promise between my Mom and Dad. So instead I decided to write you a promise.
Just as cancer could not destroy either my mother’s life or my parents’ marriage, this current crisis will not destroy us. Though we are, for now, cut off from one another, we are not alone. Though much will be lost, even more will be restored.
On Sunday morning, we will reflect on Ezekiel 37 and the Valley of Dry Bones: “Our bones are dried up. Our hope is lost. We are completely cut off.” But then God speaks. God breathes. And the bones, aching with arthritis and bent from hard labor, reassemble: “They lived and stood on their feet, a great multitude.”
How will this crisis end? When will it end? What will become of us? What will life be like? We answer those questions as did Ezekiel, knee-deep in dry bones, “O Lord God, you know.”
This morning I give thanks for faithfulness. My parents’ faithfulness to one another. My husband’s faithfulness to me. Our faithfulness to one another as brothers and sisters in faith. And primarily, God’s faithfulness to all our dry bones, our heavy hearts, our tearful faces.
Remind me, next time we see each other, to show you my Mom’s wedding ring. You can even twirl it, if you’d like. It might comfort you, too.
Missing you. And my Mom.
Pastor JoAnn Post