I handed him the velvet ring box. Nestled inside was my grandmother’s cameo ring. The smooth peach colored stone was finely carved and showed the sharp details of a woman’s silhouette. The gold band, slightly scratched from age and wear, tucked carefully in preparation for cleaning.
My sweet Nana. Her soft eyes, pale skin, and the kindest soul. She’d say, “Well isn’t that grand!” and “Well for goodness sake!” She made the best butter tarts and oatmeal cookies. Everything about her was gentle, kind, and sweet.
The died after suffering from Alzheimer’s. I was 26 years old. Her mind slowly deteriorated by taking her back in time. Surrounded by the confusion of who people were, why my father, her son, became the men of her past. My dead grandfather, her brother, her father, and then someone she no longer recognized.
Her death was a blessing. My father was at her side daily for many years. Taking her for drives to the beach to see the sunset, those quiet rides when they no longer knew what to say.
I received a few things that belonged to my Nana after she died. The cameo ring, a diamond ring, and her silver tea service all have strong meaning and memories for me.
I could see the cameo ring on her hand as she buttoned my coat, when she held my face to kiss my cheek, and when I held her hand for the last time. The ring lingered with the smell of her perfume. It was the part of her that I was able to keep, look down at my hand and that warm feeling took over my chest as remembered how she made me feel loved and important.
“Please be careful with it,” I said as he tucked the blue velvet box in his backpack. Jeff, my husband, was leaving for a business trip to North Carolina. He was going to stop by his parent’s house and visit with them for a day. His family owns a jewelry business, so taking the ring to the store for cleaning was also on his list of things to do. He would bring the ring back to me, polished and shiny. A relatively easy task, one would think.
He rummaged deep in his bag. Unzipped every pocket and reached in expecting to pull something out. He frantically repeated the task. Nothing. His face was panicked. I stood over him with a smirk on my face, waiting for my prized possession to appear.
“Jeff, this isn’t funny.” I joked. “Hand over the ring.” Jeff would tease me constantly. He loved to get me heated up and watch me squirm, only to laugh and tell me he’s “only joking”. I roll my eyes and hold out my hand as I quickly tap my foot in annoyance.
“It’s not here,” he replied shaking his head with his brows furrowed and began dumping out the contents of his bag.
“Where is it?” I demanded as my voice became louder and neared hysteria.
“I don’t know! It was in my bag last night at the hotel.” he cried. This time, I knew he wasn’t “joking”.
It took me a long time to get over the loss of the ring. It was that one piece of Nana that I could hold on to after she passed. I spent many moments crying uncontrollably, overwhelming sadness took over, and I became resentful of my husband for causing this. Poor Jeff, I was hard on him. I was despondent.
You know how people say that loved ones will visit you in your dreams? I never precisely understood what they meant by that. I always just imagined that they just had a dream about that person. But it’s different. Everything feels undeniably real. Every sound, smell, touch, emotion. That’s what happened next.
There she stood. As I looked across the lawn of the courthouse square, there was a parade in the streets, people sitting in lawn chairs, having picnics, children playing under the shade of the maples that stand like giants. My eyes scanned beyond all of the activity, and there was a white glow across the grass. It was her! She came to me. I could feel her looking at me, calling me, as she slowly walked towards my direction.
Her arms were stretched wide to welcome me, and her hair was golden and had pointy tips framed around her soft face. She wore a flowing white dress that dragged behind her as she approached me and I ran to her. I could feel myself breathing heavily and became very confused. I grabbed her as if she was going to disappear and put my face to her chest and felt her gentle embrace. She reached down slowly, put both hands on my face, pulled my head up, looked at me, and smiled.
“Everything is going to be ok Dear,” she whispered. “You don’t need to worry about this anymore.”
I felt my body relax, and my chest became warm again as I hugged her. Then, she was gone.
Your loved ones may leave you things that you treasure. I’m lucky to have the silver tea service and polish over the same spots that she once did many years before. I bake butter tarts during the holidays and smell her sweet scent. As much as I miss the cameo ring, I’ve realized that the moment we shared together during that encounter is more treasured than an object left behind.