Five months after my husband died, I accepted a consulting position and needed to get documents out of my safe. Staring at me from the top of the pile was my ring case. I hesitated, but finally pulled it out and opened it. My heart thumped loudly as I stared at my ring. Such a graceful thing he picked for me.

Sparkling diamonds set in warm yellow gold. Marquis cut jewels – one large diamond nestled between two smaller ones. They represented our past, present, and future.

With shaking hands, I couldn’t resist putting it back on just one more time. Over the past fifteen years, it had taken the shape of my finger perfectly. The bone still had an indent where it used to rest. It felt so right to see it there, sparkling on my hand again.

For a moment, time slipped away and I was his wife, not this ghost roaming the rooms of our lost life. I couldn’t help but expect him to come around the corner to check on me and ask if the kids should get ready for bed.

Then I remembered something silly. A few months before Gage died, I lost one of the smaller marques. It came loose from its setting before I realized it and the diamond was gone forever. I panicked but Gage, ever the practical guy, reminded me why he chose the jeweler he did. They fixed it with no problems.

I was stuck in the meaning of this diamond as I sat on the floor by the safe, staring at my ring. Did I lose our future? Such a superstitious thought.

Now years after his passing, I still feel a tug at my heart when I notice other people’s wedding rings. The ache of my loss rises again to remind me that my husband is gone while their loved one is still here with them.

I’ve gained a new insight on marriage based on how mine ended. It can be so unique and precious, yet also very tenuous. And when I see the married person in front of me, I understand that I’m on the outside looking in now. A widow.

I take a moment to recognize what that little ring represents. Connection and love. Struggles and losses. Commitment and hope.

This person has a potential future with their loved one, to do with what they please. Make it better, do nothing, or end it – the choice they make doesn’t really matter. It’s the sweet luxury of choice alone that matters. They are likely unaware of the privilege.

I was the same way before our story ended. It was a wonderful and amazing story, but I can see the whole of it now that it’s done. As I watch married people go about their lives despite possibly not knowing about this fine balance in place, I hope they have time ahead with their loved one.

Yet I’ve learned that love doesn’t care about timelines, short or long in this world. It really is beyond time. I still love Gage as much as I did when he was alive. It will be that way all of my life, no matter what happens or who comes in it.

And love doesn’t care if you have a ring or not. It doesn’t care who you love. It doesn’t even care if someone loves you back. Love is just there, always and in many forms. I count myself lucky that I found it with Gage, even if I will carry the pain and as well as the love from now on.


Julie Underdahl became a widow and solo parent suddenly in 2014. She is constantly learning about how to live well with loss while teaching that same lesson to her son and daughter. Being active in the outdoors is the best medicine she’s found. She also finds healing in her children, family, and friends as well as in mindfulness, music, and writing.