There have been a lot of stories I’ve wanted to tell about Mama that I just haven’t had the strength to approach. But for some reason I feel strongly in my heart today, on this Easter Sunday, that I should mention the ring that Mama was buried with.
A lot of people asked me about that ring on the day of Mama’s funeral, and quite a few have asked me about it since. Oddly enough, some people were concerned that I might, in my grief, bury Mama with an expensive ring on her finger (funny how people worry about stuff like that). I’d prefer to think that maybe people just wanted to know the significance of the ring. I didn’t worry too much at the time about what people thought about that, because it was something between Mama and I. That’s all that mattered to me.
But, just so you know, here’s the story behind that ring.
When I was a little kid Mama once lost her wedding ring. She was very distraught over it, because symbolic things like that meant a lot to Mama. I decided to do something about it. I was saving up my allowance for a G.I. Joe at the time (probably a G.I. Joe – I never saved money for anything else), so I had a little cash on hand. I took that money and rode out to a store in Kings Mountain on my bicycle, and bought my Mama a new ring, just trying to make her feel better. It wasn’t much, of course. I couldn’t afford much. It was just one of those costume jewelry rings, cheaply made with fake gold plating and glass stones. But it was pretty. I bought it and took it home to Mama.
That ring meant the world to Mama.
Through the years the story behind that ring was one of Mama’s favorite stories, about how she’d lost her wedding ring and her little boy took his saved-up allowance and bought her a replacement. I think the innocence and simple love of that gesture meant more to her than the ring itself. She always said that when she died she didn’t want to be buried with diamond rings or necklaces. The only jewelry she wanted on her was that ring I bought her when I was a little kid.
I’d kept that in mind after Mama died. As I wandered through her apartment, heart-broken and adrift, I worried because I couldn’t remember what that ring looked like, and didn’t hold out much hope that I would recognize it when I saw it. I asked God to help me find it, because it meant so much to me that I be able to honor one of the few wishes I knew Mama had about her burial. I didn’t know if I’d be able to find it or not on my own, and it meant a lot to me that I honored Mama’s wishes.
Well, Mama took care of that. I found the ring on her dresser.
There’s been a lot of talk about how Mama seemed to know that something was wrong with her. In the weeks leading up to her death she called many people that she hadn’t talked to in a long time. She seemed to be wrapping up unfinished business, and just wanted people to know that she loved them and was thinking about them.
I think Mama put that ring out on her dresser so I would find it and be able to know that it was the ring. It wasn’t in her jewelry box where she kept her diamond rings, or in the jewelry chest where she kept her necklaces and brooches. It was laying on the dresser in her bedroom, a few inches in front of her insurance policy. I can think of no other reason for that ring to be laying out, along with her insurance policy, than that Mama knew her days were growing short and wanted to make sure that I could find that ring.
Well. I found it, Mama. Thank you for thinking of me, even as you knew that something was wrong with you and you were worried that you might not have long on this Earth. It was an unexpected comfort to me to be able to put that ring on your finger.
In the end, Mama believed that jewelry and finery meant nothing where she was going. She believed that putting the trappings of an Earthly life on her body to be buried in the ground was just “putting on airs”.
What Mama wanted on her finger was a cheap old ring that was, to her, a physical manifestation of a young boy’s simple love for his mother. Nothing more.
So, now you know the story of Mama’s ring. She loved to point out that the ring “never turned” in the 35 or so years she owned it, and I suspect she believed that it was because the ring was given out of a simple and unselfish act. It was that same love that led a lost little boy to put that ring on his Mama’s finger 35 or so years later when he buried her.
I love you, Mama. Your absence is strongly felt on this Easter Sunday, the first major holiday I’m spending without you. I keenly missed that morning phone call that we would have received from you this morning, with your cheerful voice wishing me “Happy Easter!” But your love is still evident, and you’re never far from my thoughts.