Mind/Body/Spirit

The ring

Midway through a Friday night shift on our obstetric unit, I glanced down at my left hand. It was bare. I’d been married less than 2 years, and my gold band was gone.
What happened to my ring? Retracing my steps, I crept back into room 110. Ramona, hospitalized for a pregnancy complication, was lying awake in the darkness.
“Are you feeling better?” I whispered.
“I am. Thanks again for changing my sheets.”
“You’re welcome.” I hesitated a moment before asking, “Did you notice if I had my wedding band on?”
“No. You lost it?”
“Yes.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t notice.”
Ramona and I felt under opposite sides of the mattress. Our search was futile.
“I’ll pray you find it,” she said.
“Thank you,” I smiled. “I hope you get some sleep.”
I wondered if I’d pulled the ring off with my gloves after stripping a delivery room. But when I looked at the red biohazard bag, carefully knotted and too plump to fit inside the garbage can, I couldn’t bring myself to sift through the garbage.
I left a note at the nurses’ station, praying my ring would be waiting for me the next evening.
At home, I crawled into bed next to my sleepy husband, buried my hand under my pillow, and tried to sleep. After 4 restless hours, I got up.
“You didn’t sleep very long,” Rich said, when I walked into the living room.
I sat beside him on the couch and took a deep breath. “I—I lost my wedding ring, and I’m going back to look through the garbage.”
He gave me a hug, and said, “I hope you find it.”
The utility room was empty. I walked to the back of the hospital where a custodian was loading bags into a bin. “Where’s last night’s garbage from labor and delivery?” I asked.
“In the incinerator.” I blinked back tears.
That night, when I went in to take Ramona’s vital signs, she asked, “Did you find your ring?”
“Not yet.”
“I’m still praying for you,” she said.
“Thanks.”
The next evening, the phone rang. “What’s new?” Dad asked.
“I lost my wedding ring.”
Dad paused before asking, “Do you want Nana’s?”
“Thanks, Dad.”
Nana’s ring symbolized the love among generations of my family. When I slipped it on, my hand was no longer bare, but I missed my wedding band. Many nights at work, knowing it was hopeless, I searched for my ring.
Leaving the labor and delivery unit one morning, I noticed Ramona’s name outside room 124. A month had passed since we’d met, but her due date was still weeks away. I nudged open her door, and in the darkness she said, “Hi, did you find your ring?”
“No,” I said. “My dad gave me Nana’s.”
“He must really love you.”
“I know.”
“How are you doing?” I asked.
After a brief pause, she said, “I lost my baby yesterday—Jonathan.”
“I—I didn’t know.”
Ramona turned on the light and handed me an envelope. My eyes filled with tears as I pulled out two cards, one bearing tiny footprints; the other, a lock of hair.
I leaned down to give her a hug. All I could say was, “I’m so sorry.”
“I’m sorry about your ring,” Ramona replied, as we held each other tightly.
I’d been heartsick over losing my ring. But Ramona’s loss put mine in perspective. And the fact that she, in her grief, could ask about me, touched my soul.
That was 26 years ago. Above the diamond anniversary band I now wear, I still wear Nana’s ring. It’s a daily reminder of my father’s unconditional love and of Ramona. And I hope those sweet memories of butterfly kisses in her womb, tiny footprints, and a lock of hair bring her comfort.

Karen Buley, BSN, RN, is an obstetrics nurse at Community Medical Center in Missoula, Montana. Submission guidelines for her nursing anthology are at www.karenbuley.com.


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