I recently read The Pilot's Wife - not sure why I hadn't read it earlier but whatever. The plot (for those who haven't read it this is not considered spoiler info) centres on a woman who's husband - the Pilot - dies in a dramatic plane crash, along with all the other people on board, and the secrets she discovers about him after his death.
Oddly, the widowhood angle didn't really send up any major warning flags for me before I started reading the book - I just thought it looked like an interesting story. D'OH!! But it was OK - I didn't get all freaked out and ricochet off on some wild emotional roller coaster (hmm, maybe that is weird...). Her reactions and emotions in the aftermath of her husband's death were startlingly real and very well portrayed. I think I read somewhere that the author, Anita Shreve, did do quite a bit of research into grief responses, etc. when writing the book. (Ultimately, I was disappointed by the book - the plot was quite predictable and contrived, it left me bored.)
Anyhow, one scene that struck me was when Kathryn throws her wedding ring into the ocean where her husband's plane crashed. Without getting into plot spoilers, it was interesting to ponder her reasons for doing so. In the book she thinks to herself: To be relieved of love is to give up a terrible burden.
When my mom and dad each died, I buried their wedding rings with their ashes. I didn't really have any interest in keeping their wedding rings for myself (sentimental reasons or whatever) and I have no children to pass them onto so it didn't seem to make sense. I supose I could have had them melted down along with some other pieces and made into something else but I didn't.
I didn't keep Chris' wedding ring either. I had the funeral home place it in the urn with his ashes along with his boyhood dog Sasha's collar tag that he kept on his keychain. (He forgot his keys at home when we went to Barbados and I swear he fretted every day worrying that he had lost Sasha's tag.) I don't know what I would have done with Chris' ring had I kept it - I felt that it belonged with him, it was part of who he was... and it was a part of me that would always be with him. It was sweetly inscribed S loves C.
A friend of mine kept her husband's wedding ring after he died and she wears it on a chain around her neck but she still wears her own. Another widow I know wears her wedding ring on her right hand now. I still wear mine on my 'wedding' finger. I know that some think that it's time for me to stop wearing it but I don't really care. In my heart I still feel married. I'm still in love with Chris. I'm not ready to stop wearing it. Besides, it's a beautiful one-of-a-kind ring that I really like.
Perhaps love is a terrible burden in some ways. Remember the scene from Love Actually when Liam Neeson gently pries into his step-son's worries and laughs upon discovering that the young boy is love: "...I thought it would be something worse." To which Sam replies "Worse than the total agony of being in love?"
I don't feel pain or sadness when I look at my wedding ring. It reminds me that I was once so fortunate to love and be loved - C loves S.