You stopped buying me Christmas and birthday gifts many years ago. You thought Valentine’s Day was stupid. When asked by friends what you got me for Mother’s Day your response was always, “Nothing. She is not my mother”. Then I would walk into my office and there would be a huge bouquet of flowers or a beautiful piece of jewelry on my desk that you sent just because it was Wednesday and because you loved me. To a stranger, it might sound like you were not sentimental. You were not about the most pedestrian of things in your opinion. A birthday was just another day. Valentine’s Day was a day invented by card and chocolate manufacturers to guilt husbands into buying stuff that no one needed. You were not playing that game. Instead of buying things, you created for us experiences. You planned lavish vacations for our special holidays. You were most fond of being sure that we were always away together for our anniversary. As you were quick to point out, you got two for one because my birthday and our anniversary are two days apart. Your favorite place to take me was Jamaica. How many of our anniversaries did we spend in Jamaica on the warm and beautiful beaches surrounded by the friends that we had made from all over the world? What sweet memories.
One of our very first trips together brought us to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. As we walked through the town, I could not help but notice that you kept gravitating toward the jewelry stores. Well far be it from me to stop you! You finally found what you were looking for. You found our bracelets.
The bracelets are called Love Bracelets. They are held on with gold screws inserted with a gold screw driver. Love bracelets symbolize everlasting love and they are intended to never some off. We each wore one for 34 of our 35 years together and the only times they came off were during surgeries or a medical procedure. They were off for the shortest amount of time and were generally put back on while still in the recovery room. When it concerned these bracelets, you were very sentimental. You would take off your wedding ring to do work or to sleep. The bracelet, however, never came off! I remember several firm arguments that you had with doctors prior to a surgery when you insisted that the bracelet be left on. They could just tape over it and not remove it. You generally won this argument.
You called me over to your bed in ICU. We both knew that the next day you would undergo a cardiac MRI. We shared how we were both concerned about the procedure and the various things that could happen. You seemed much less concerned than I was and attempted to comfort me with your mantra; “It will be what it will be”. You were, however, very concerned and upset because you knew that prior to the MRI, you would be forced to remove your bracelet. Since our gold screwdriver was in your jewelry case at home, you asked to me find a hardware store, locate one that would fit the screw without damaging the bracelet and bring that with me the next morning. I did that. The next morning as I arrived in your room in the ICU, I dreaded what we had to do. It was so emotional for both of us. Just the idea of removing your bracelet was heart breaking. I think you knew at that moment that the next person to wear your bracelet would be me. I, however, would not even allow that thought to enter my mind or my heart. I told you that I was going to put it in a pouch in my purse, carry it with me and put it back on you as soon as you got out of ICU. You looked at me, nodded you head and said, “OK, baby”. But, you knew. I unscrewed your bracelet. We both cried. I reinserted the screw and tucked it away. You never got to wear it again.
The sentiment of the bracelet is that love endures through eternity. When one spouse dies, the surviving spouse wears both bracelets. On the night that you died, I screwed your bracelet on next to mine. They never come off and it gives me comfort to always have something you wore for 34 years on my arm. In my mind, when I look at them, we are still together. I carry you with me.
I remember when we attended a gala at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. We were seated at the table with executives from a major corporation. The man to my right was warm and inviting and we had a wonderful conversation during the meal. I had on a long-sleeved jacket and he reached over and pulled my sleeve up to revel my bracelet. As I looked over at him, he gently raised his coat sleeve reveling two love bracelets. Neither of us said a word as tears fell from both of our eyes. I knew without a word being said that he had lost his wife. By wearing our bracelet, he knew that I would understand without explanation. It was such a poignant moment in time and my heart ached for this lovely man and for his life loss. Now I wear our two bracelets. The significance is ours. We shared this together and for my very unsentimental husband, you were very attached to these bracelets and to the meaning behind them. You believed that we were eternal. I still believe that we are.
I love you.