A lost loved one’s possessions can symbolize an entire lifetime of memories and emotions. Here, in the final segment of Lauren Johnson’s remembrance of her grandmother, she fights to keep those emotions – and her Mimi’s memory – with her.
In 2003 my grandparents made a simple will and had it notarized. I had seen one of its many copies at the time of Papaw’s death. When it was made, I was in prison. My uncle wasn’t, and my grandparents believed (at the time) that I had stolen from their home. That wasn’t the case, but since I had stolen from my uncle before, I understood. The will mentioned only a few people specifically; I wasn’t among them. It made me a little sad. I felt forgotten, but didn’t want to bring it up because it wasn’t any of my business. There was only one thing I wanted anyway – but it was specifically designated to a cousin of mine.
Sometime last year, my grandmother told me to get her jewelry box. She had me go through and pick out the things I wanted. The only jewelry she wore any longer was her wedding ring, and a ring my uncle had given her after his failed engagement. When we were at the hospital she had told me where her rings were in the house. She didn’t say it in a way that indicated she wanted me to have them – it was just a passing comment about her taking them off before she checked in for safekeeping. I went to the house, saw them in the box and put them on. Honestly I thought many times about telling my family a story that she told me to keep them. But my conscience got the best of me. I am not that person anymore.
On the day of her death I told my family members who were there, the truth: that she told me where they were, that I knew the will designated them for the cousin, but the will was old and I would like to have them. I made it clear that I would not fight over it. If I had to, I would hand them over – but they were on my finger. I spent the next week hoping my cousin would decide that it wasn’t important to her. Or that maybe I had earned it with my sacrifice. I sent her an email telling her it would mean a lot to me if I could keep them. I got no response. It was the only thing on my mind for the week. I hoped my cousin would agree to let me keep the rings. Or that my uncle might deem it appropriate to make a judgment call in my favor. It also filled me with anxiety that I would have to turn them over. I held on to hope on the day of the memorial service (that I put together). And up through the reception. And beyond, when we all went back to the house to visit and eat (the meal that I spent hours preparing the day prior).
My uncle very diplomatically told me I needed to give my cousin the ring. I had known this might happen. I’d known it would break my heart. And even knew that I never should’ve taken them in the first place. I knew all along that it was only a ring. I have rings of more monetary value than that one! And money in the bank to go purchase one like it, or better, if I chose. I knew all along it wasn’t so much about the ring – but the thoughts and emotions I had tied to it, that never belonged there in the first place. Knowing all these things didn’t stop it from breaking my heart that I’d have to give it away. I went out to my vehicle and cried – ugly, sobbing cries – for a long time. I kept thinking I would be able to stop , and then I could go back inside. But I wound up having to go back inside to stop the crying. Even then it was only for brief periods.
My cousin was very sweet; she hugged me and told me to let her know if she could help. In my juvenile mind I wanted to say, “of course you can help: give me the ring back”. But in my right mind, I knew that it wasn’t fair of me to have asked her in the first place. I knew telling the truth and giving it back was the right thing to do. In retrospect, I wonder if my conscience would have hurt me this much had I followed through with my evil plan. I know there are many lessons to be gained from this whole painful experience.
My feelings shouldn’t have been tied to a ring. My grandmother forgave me for the rocky past I led so many years ago. She believed me when I told her that I had never stolen from her. She loved me unconditionally – regardless of those things I did. She was proud of the woman, and mother that I had become. She was grateful for all the help I was to her over the last few years. She never missed an opportunity to tell me these things. Unfortunately in a single week I made that ring mean that I was forgiven, loved, appreciated. It was a symbol of the love that she and Papaw shared for 34 years. 7 years ago, my Papaw married my husband and I in their home. That ring meant all these things and more to me – but it was never mine to place meaning on.
Not having that ring forces me to miss her; it forces me to acknowledge how I set myself up for this heartbreak. Not having that ring makes me realize, yet again, that knowledge in my head doesn’t always translate to my heart. I cry a little less now, but it will take time. I’m ashamed to admit that a part of me still hopes that my cousin will change her mind. I will get over missing the ring though. Mostly, I miss my Mimi.