With This Ring…

This year marks a milestone. Steve died 6 years ago today. We were married for 5 years and a_steve_erinb0005_DSC_0020f51 weeks. I’ve now been a widow longer than I’ve been a wife.

There are simply no words to express the pain that realization brings.

One question I see often in widow/widower Facebook groups is about when to take off a wedding ring. Its one of those things no one thinks about until you are in that position.

It’s been six years for me, and I still wear my ring, on my right hand.  In short, there isn’t a right or wrong time to do anything in widowhood – dating, removal of rings, packing up clothes, moving, [insert any other thing here]. It’s all about the moment and when it feels right to you. One thing about me –  I’m VERY sentimental.

My ring is a reminder – a much more beautiful version of that string you can tie around your finger or ink pen in the palm of your hand to remember something important.

This ring reminds me…

To listen. Steve and I had been dating for just a few weeks when a newly engaged couple came into the bar I was working at. He had given her a Tacori ring, a ring I had only seen in magazines. I never thought I would see one in person and I was excited to see one in real life. I’m not a brand girl and had never ventured into a jewelry store. The fact that I actually knew about a ring brand still blows my mind. Later that night, I was telling Steve about my day and mentioned the fact that I saw this ring. We had been dating less than a month and he wrote it down! How many guys would even listen to such a random story with interest, much less capture a note like that for a girl he barely knew? Steve always listened. Any random thing I had on my mind seemed to interest him as he always seemed to want to know me to the depths of my soul. He knew me better than anyone in this world. That type of commitment is so precious and is a loss I feel deeply. Listening with intent is something I strive to be better at, and this ring is a reminder to do better.

I’m loved. There is something indescribable when a person says “I choose you…forever.” When a person is willing to stand next to you and commit to the good times and the bad and truly mean it. My ring represents a love that many people will never know. Steve was my other half, and when he died, I lost myself. I lost my confidence, I lost my best friend, I lost the person that knew all of me and loved me anyway, I lost the person that fixed my problems and made my world right. I lost the person that loved me with his whole self from the very beginning because he saw more in me, in us, than I ever saw in myself. What this ring reminds me of is the fact that Steve lived his promise to love me every day. There are days I’ve felt completely alone, days when I would have given anything to just have my rock there in the battle with me. I look at my ring and remember the love that was shared and the fact that I know he is with me. He never once let me tackle a problem alone when he was alive, and when I need a boost, his love and advice still guides me.

I’m worth it. Yes, I know. Society says that you should find your worth on your own and not need anyone else to build you up. I tell my girls that while at the same time trying to be that person that helps them see their worth. In the past, I’ve made poor decisions simply because I wanted to be wanted by others. Steve taught me that not only was I wanted, I was worth the risk of committing to forever. Steve loved me at my worst, and made me into a better person than I could have ever been without him. This ring reminds me that I was enough for him when I literally had nothing but myself. He never, ever made me feel like I was less – he always argued that he was the lucky one (he was wrong)!  “Just” me was enough for him. Not only was I enough, I was worth the effort. He drove 10 hours round-trip twice to get me the perfect ring while hiding all of it from me. He paid more than he ever imagined, but as he told the story of ring shopping he shrugged his shoulders, laughed a little, and said that he wanted it perfect because he thought I deserved it. When someone believes in you, amazing things happen. When someone believes in the love you have together – enough to commit to a life together and live it every day – it is indescribable. This ring reminds me that I was enough for the best person I had ever known, and I need to believe in myself as much as he believed in me.

To be happy. This ring reminds me of a promise. Not just our wedding vows, but a promise we made to each other to find a way to be happy if one of us died. When I am struggling and can’t seem to climb out of a funk, I look at my ring. I know he is watching me, and the one thing he could never handle is me being upset or sad. The one thing I refuse to do with my life is let Steve down. This ring reminds me of the promise I made. The promise to persevere, the promise to stand back up, the promise to smile. My ring gives me the push I need to continue.

This ring is the most beautiful gift I’ve ever been given. It’s not about the diamonds or the design, it was the gift Steve gave when he gave himself to me.  It’s a gift of unconditional love, and I will forever cherish it.

Building a Bucket List – Part 2

Photo Credit: tubblesnap via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: tubblesnap via Compfight cc

Last week I started writing about my bucket list and why I think everyone should have one. I shared some of the locations that we wanted to visit and some different events that we wanted to attend too!

One of them was New York and somewhere that Steve and I actually got to experience together before he passed. Here are a few additional categories you should consider when putting together your own list.

Service to Others

Steve and I worked hard for what we had in life, but we also realized that we had a lot to be thankful for. We talked about ways we could help keep our children humble in a world that can be very materialistic.

One opportunity that we were pursuing was the chance to participate in a mission trip. We had been looking at Africa, since an African safari was also on our list. I reached out to my company’s corporate citizenship office to see what organizations they supported. We started investigating and found that there were opportunities to teach children and adults how to do anything from starting a small business, to reading and farming.

These opportunities seemed to be a good fit with our passions in life. We wanted to make sure we stayed grounded and gave back by sharing our gifts with other parts of the world. We also had planned on having our kids participate with us once they reached their pre-teen and teenage years. We didn’t get a chance to pursue it before Steve died, but it’s still on my list!

Another item on Steve’s list was to start a nursing scholarship at VCSU in his mom’s name. He thought it would be a great way to honor her service, compassion and knowledge of the nursing profession. He never got the chance to fulfill that dream, but it’s how I got the idea to start a scholarship in his name.

I did not directly fulfill his bucket list item, but I was able to share his idea with his mom who was honored that he had even thought about taking that action. His scholarship does fulfill his dream of educating others even though he isn’t physically teaching people himself anymore.

He wanted to make a difference and anyone that knew him, knew he did. The scholarship enables him to make a difference in the lives of VCSU students forever. Next week I get to meet the first three scholarship recipients – I can’t wait. I’ll be sure to recap this experience soon!

Showing Love 

The bucket list activity that I was most excited for was our decision to renew our vows every 5 years. Our first time was going to be in St.Lucia in January of 2014. The trip was booked and we were excited to write our own vows to each other. We planned to have pictures taken and build on those memories as we continued to grow older together. The first trip was going to be just the two of us, but we had planned to include our children on each trip after.

Steve melted my heart when he shared that one of his dreams was to kiss me under a waterfall – and he didn’t think he was romantic! After learning this we decided to make sure we took the opportunity to visit a waterfall in St. Lucia. In fact, it was one of the reasons we chose that island.

While this is a bucket list item I cannot fulfill without Steve, the premise of showing our girls what love is is certainly something that I can do. I can show them how to love with their full heart, knowing full well that they may get hurt. Through the pain comes growth – no matter what stage in life you are in – and that growth is an opportunity to move forward with confidence. I hope I show them not only how to love, but how to live through adversity and continually grow as an individual.

An Ever-Changing List

The beauty of the list is that it is dynamic and fluid. Just as life changes, so does my list. Every time I go on Pinterest I seem to find more beautiful places in the world that I want to see with my own eyes. Someday, I will ask my kids to make their own list and those items will become part of my list.

A new relationship also brings a new opportunity to add to the list. I’m now dating someone named Jon. He and I reviewed the list I had with Steve and added his to dreams to it. Now we have a list that holds the dreams and desires of all three of us.

This process made me appreciate how truly special Jon is to be willing to help me live out Steve’s dreams, as well as my own. Jon’s 40th birthday is coming up and originally he didn’t want to do anything special. Steve never made it to 40 and I really wanted to celebrate this milestone.

We went through our list and narrowed down the options before finally settling on Macchu Picchu. I would have been excited to go, but that excitement is magnified knowing that I get to live out one of Jon’s dreams with him as he reaches a point in life that Steve did not live to see. Together, we get to LIVE his day.

Dreams Can Come True

Dreaming about how to live life made me excited to live it. Every day was one day closer to our next adventure and I became excited to explore the world. The list made me understand what I could do to fulfill Steve’s dreams and gave me motivation to save for the experiences.

Our bucket list will continue to grow and change. I cannot wait to add the girls’ dreams to it too and start making those special memories together. Over time, this list will help me show the girls the things their dad loved and share with them why each item was on the list.

We didn’t just write things things down, we took the time to understand and the reasons behind each item will be fun to share with our girls. This list will help the girls understand who their father was, what he enjoyed, and where we had dreamed of taking them together. The list brings direction and purpose to our lives, in a way that also honors their father. It’s a beautiful thing.

Have you started your list? What other category would you add to these bucket list ideas?