(A lightly edited version of an essay I submitted last month for my writing course.)
One evening last month, while we were sitting around the kitchen table after dinner, my younger brother and his girlfriend announced their engagement. After we’d heard how he knelt down on a hillside walk, after we’d laughed and hugged and admired the ring, Dad herded the newly-engaged couple into the living room for photos, while I retreated to my bedroom. No one seemed to notice that when I returned, donned my blue-and-white-striped apron, and started clearing up, my eyes were red.
I own only one ring. My parents gave it to me when I turned sixteen, so for the last decade it has circled my finger in a metallic embrace, a little above a freckle whose origins (unlike those of the ring) I can’t remember. It wasn’t a promise ring or a purity ring or anything but a birthday ring, but I decided that I’d wear it until I was engaged, then store it away for a daughter of my own to wear. In the meantime, I’d enjoy this glinting decoration, which became the one thing that glistened on hands otherwise bare of all adornment.
Every morning, I’ve slipped my ring onto my finger, and every evening, I’ve twisted it back over my knuckle and laid it down on my pine dresser. It stays on my finger throughout the day (unless I’m about to sink my hands into a bowlful of pastry) and it has the scuffs and scrapes to prove it. There’s a nick at the opposite side of the circle from the diamonds. When I run my nail over it, I can just feel the bump. When I run my finger over it instead, I can’t feel it at all. I’ve no idea how it got there—no idea which of the many events in the last four thousand days was the one which left this mark on my ring.
I do know that I was wearing my ring when I hugged my first sister-in-law-to-be as she and my brother came into our kitchen one dark November evening five years ago to show us an engagement ring. I was wearing it last month when I hugged another girl and admired another ring. I wore it when I slipped on a silky dress to attend my first brother’s wedding. I except I will wear it to next summer’s wedding too. It will remain on duty like a sentry waiting to be relieved—relieved by a comrade who seems to have fallen asleep at a post somewhere many miles away.
A decade of “in the meantime” has taken its toll on my ring. Its sparkle has dulled like a lamp that’s been turned down. It’s a ragamuffin compared to the princess of a ring that my brother presented to his girlfriend last month, but it’s a part of me now, and that’s reason enough to wear it.
My essay didn’t have a “happy ending”, because I don’t have one in real life yet. But as a friend reminded me earlier this week, I believe that after death comes resurrection. So one day, life and joy will come after sadness, even if it’s slow in the coming, and even if it doesn’t look the way I wish it did. It may not come in this life at all. But it will come, and it will be a glorious resurrection.
Oh, for grace to believe!