Why I don’t want to remove my wedding ring

I still wear my wedding ring.

Though I have been widowed for five years now, my wedding ring is symbolic of the love I still share with my soulmate and husband Jim, who died in 2010 of pancreatic cancer. It’s the unbroken circle, a promise to love each other forever.

To me, it is a spiritual bond.

His matching wedding ring was the one thing Jim wanted to make sure remained on him when he was buried. He told me so repeatedly throughout our marriage, reminding me often as his health declined during his final year.

I was putting Jim's ring on his finger for the first time.

I was putting Jim’s ring on his finger for the first time.

If Jim had to take his ring off for a medical reason, he made sure it was in my possession, and that I placed it back on his finger as soon as it was feasible. If he had to take it off at work for safety reasons — he was a pressman — he placed it carefully in his locker and made sure it was back on before he left his workplace. Sometimes he would carry it home and ask me to put it back on his finger. He didn’t do that often though, afraid he would lose it.

About a year before he died, Jim had to have his wedding ring cut off his finger. A wasp had stung his ring finger when he was trying to prevent one of the dogs from grabbing the critter. His finger swelled grotesquely, making it medically necessary to cut off the ring.

In typical Yankee fashion, he would not spend the money to have the ring repaired. He taped it together with medical tape (not duct tape, thank heavens) and wore it that way.

Right after Jim died, I wanted to get his ring repaired before his funeral and burial, but the funeral director said he normally has to cut the rings anyway so they will fit on the swollen fingers of the deceased. It bothered me to not have it repaired. It felt like unfinished business. But even in my grief-stricken state of mind, I could comprehend it would be wasted effort.

If I’ve ever taken my wedding ring off since Jim and I exchanged vows, he was the one to put it back on my finger. I haven’t taken it off since he died. I’ve even delayed medical testing at times in the last five years because I feared I’d be required to remove my ring, and would only have it done once I was reassured the ring could stay.

I am usually not so impractical. It’s been disconcerting to me too.

At the same time though, the decision to continue wearing my ring is mine, and it’s deeply personal.

Part of that comes from my Christian faith. I believe the spirit lives beyond the grave where the body is laid. In my belief system, Jim’s spirit is still alive. Marriage wasn’t a civil action for me; it was a forever promise made before God. Like a pinky swear only deeper. That doesn’t mean I won’t have other relationships, but it does mean I will remain true to my promise to Jim to love him forever.

Since his spirit is still alive, wouldn’t I be unfaithful to that union if I removed the ring? Or is it only a physical symbol of something more beautiful and less tangible?

Jim and I were married in a chapel in Miami Beach. It was the happiest day of my life.

Jim and I were married in a chapel in Miami Beach. It was the happiest day of my life.

Although Jim felt similarly attached to his ring, I know he’d tell me that I’m being foolish and to take the ring off, find another person to share my life with and move on. Jim’s love for me meant he wanted me to find happiness in life, and that he wanted me to live that life, not dwell on what can never be. I would have wanted the same for him.

But even with his permission, I cannot seem to remove the ring. I am just not ready.

And I’m okay with that … even if others aren’t. I’ve had lots of suggestions from people for how to keep the ring on my person while removing it from my left hand — from putting my ring fingers from the left and right hands together and shifting the ring from left to right, to removing the ring to a chain to wear around my neck.

People seem to think the ring is somehow preventing me from moving on — to what I don’t know. But the bottom line is, I don’t want to move it from my left hand. I can’t even think about moving it without becoming very emotional.

Not yet.

I’m not a psychologist, psychiatrist or grief counselor, so cannot analyze it scientifically, but it feels like my last earthly physical link to the relationship with the man who is my soulmate would be severed with the removal of that ring.

It would make Jim’s death too final.




Julie Harris

About Julie Harris

As a longtime employee of Bangor Daily News, I have served many roles over the years, but I now have a dream job as Community Editor. I live in Hermon with my four Brittany dogs: Sassy, Bullet, Thistle and Quincy, who keep me busy in various dog sports. I was widowed at age 51 when my husband, Jim, died of pancreatic cancer.