Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Ring

I was standing in the shower, utterly defeated. It was a big, tiled shower, with flower motifs interspersed with the grey speckled surrounding tiles. I leaned against the wall, my head against the tiles, holding tightly to the metal bar that ran the length of the shower. On my left, Greg held my other arm, supporting my weight. Blood poured from me, mixing with the hot water on the floor of the shower before swirling down the drain. My legs kept buckling. I thought I was exhausted from the labor. I know now that I had simply had the life sucked right out of me.
My mind was empty and blank. I was virtually unable to comprehend what had happened to me in the preceding 15 hours. I had left my house about to have a baby. Here I stood. She had come and gone. My belly hung from me, loose and pouchy, agonizingly empty. The experience of my child was already over. It was 9:30 PM, May 13, 2003.
I could not say how long I stood there, supported by Greg, the tears that would become part of my very breath dripping off my nose as I watched the blood continue to flow down my legs. My body felt ravaged. Ragged. Torn. Robbed. I could hardly say what was up or down, I was dizzy, swaying, inconsolable.
Suddenly the words poured out of my mouth, in a stream. "What is the birthstone for May?" I asked my husband, whose 27th birthday would happen 3 days later. "An emerald," he told me, and as soon as the words had escaped him I said, "I want an emerald ring, for Charlotte."
"So do I," he said.
It took us three weeks to gather the courage to go into the jewlers in town. Money was not a consideration. "We would have sent her to college, " I told Greg. We walked in, and bumbled our way across the store to the emerald section.
The jewler we chose is right downtown, in a beautiful, old art-deco bank. The ceiling is high, huge, with stained glass skylights in the middle of the dome. It is both ominous and light at once. It is always very quiet and hushed in there, slightly dark but the cases are well lit, displaying the jewels beautifully.
Greg and I were helped by a lovely, quiet French woman. She asked us if she could be of assistance, and we told her she could. We told her that several weeks earlier, our only daughter had passed away, and that we wanted an emerald ring to remember her by.
The woman's face softened, and she took my hand. "I am so sorry," she said. "Now you have a little angel in heaven". This is, of course, at the top of the "what not to say" list, but somehow, with her soft French accent and my instant judgement that she was a deeply believing Catholic, it passed me over. I nodded, and we proceeded.
I had made it through, choosing the setting, and even a beautiful, round cut emerald to be placed in my ring. Greg had chosen a beautiful, two-tone man's wedding ring with a diamond chip, which was to be replaced with a tiny, barely detectable emerald. It cost 12 times as much as his wedding ring to me, but this would marry him to the invisible child he would carry forever in his heart. It was worth it.
Then it was time to plan the engraving. The kind, French woman got out some paper, and suddenly I had reached my threshold. I hadn't even left my house but once before this day. I simply melted, and I didn't care. My pockets were full of kleenex, and I wept copiously into the kleenex, not even noticing all the people around me. This was the space I occupied at that moment, the space of having no control whatsoever over whether I cried or not, or how little or how much. The tears coursed down my cheeks as Greg spelled out our little daughter's beautiful name, which we had chosen for her anticipating life, and midway through the lovely sales woman reached over and patted my hand, pausing, leaving her hand on mine for just a second longer than another person might have. I was grateful.
When we arrived home, we collapsed, exhausted. We had spent over three thousand dollars. We did not care. We knew that for the rest of our lives, we would wear the rings proudly, each representing our eternal love for our little girl who never made it home.


Birdie said...

this is such a beautiful story...here I sit with tears streaming down my face imagining it all. Imagining and feeling so much from your words. Oh Charlotte you are so loved! Even though I never got to meet you I miss you as I miss my Birdie.

Lissa Lane said...

I'm sitting here moved to tears. Just, the love for your sweet Charlotte shows so very very much. My heart hurts for you.