“Is it special?”

Today, for only the second time, a stranger asked me about my necklace.

I have written about Jim’s wedding band, which I held towards my lips with both hands cupped around it–similar to the way I remember gently, fleetingly confining fireflies  when I was a child–during the rare occasions he removed it from his finger at the hospital.

I am not the only one who has written about the divet where the same gold band left its mark on Jim’s finger.

I also have written about the diamond pendant Jim gave me as the last gift I could hold.  Someone told me it is known as an “infinity” necklace.

I wear them both always.

At first I wore them on separate chains.  I did so as my sons and I completed our sleepless forty-hour odyssey returning to Boston from Kyoto (a trip that featured a particularly unpleasant thirteen-hour layover whose details led one of my brothers to wonder whether our host city, loosely speaking, should have been in contention for a title along with the airport a pilot described thus: “A filthy lobby, sullen-faced employees, no place to sit, and a vague sense of danger all add up to the World’s Worst Airport.”).

We ended up re-entering our home country through Detroit, where I foggily stumbled about, dehydrated and nauseated, looking for water bottles before we boarded the final flight.

At a store counter, the woman next to me looked at me and said, “That’s a beautiful necklace.”

Blearily I touched my right hand first to the pendant and then to the ring and asked, “Which one?”

“Well, both of them. I knew that must be special.” She looked at me kindly, and I gathered she meant the ring.  I thanked her.

(A formerly fearful flier, I always slip a finger inside the ring during takeoffs and landings and other moments of high stress.)

Some months ago I began wearing both the pendant and the ring on the same chain above my heart: infinity and an endless circle.   I suppose I have abandoned nuance.

During today’s bout of evening tasks I stopped at the drug store, where one of the pharmacy assistants smiled at me and asked with genuine feeling how all of us are doing.  And then I dashed to the grocery store and piled my caffeinated trove on the conveyor belt.

The cashier, who was new and in training, chatted as she rang things up.  When she was done, she tilted her head, looked at the necklace and asked,  “Is that special?”

This time I had no confusion about which she meant: many have pendants; few bear wedding bands around their necks.

“Yes, it’s my husband’s ring.”

The word “special” doesn’t begin to do it justice.

A Divet and a Button

Boston, May 6, 2012 

I attended an extraordinary memorial service today, at Tufts School of Medicine, for the families of people who have donated their bodies for medical study.

I know from my husband’s own first year as a medical student at Tufts that learning human anatomy is among the most riveting and reverential things they ever will do.

I did not know of this annual ceremony, though, in which the students grace these families with music,  artwork, and poetry.   After the service, my husband’s team of students presented me with flowers.

We also were given a treasured opportunity to speak to the students who have learned so much from the people we love.

A divet and a button: in addition to his youth and outwardly great health and condition, these were the two things medical students noticed when they first saw my husband’s body.

They knew from the implanted port that left a circular, button-like protrusion above his heart, like a penny pressed upward–something I always feared would hurt him as I rested my head there, though he repeatedly assured me it did not–that he likely had chemotherapy drugs infused into him.

And they knew from the pronounced impression on his ring finger that he was a husband, that he had a family and was loved. Continue reading “A Divet and a Button”

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