On December 30, 1972, I married my best friend, Nancy Fender. She put a gold ring on my finger as we pledged to love and honor one another as long as we both lived.
January 17, 2013—forty years, eighteen days, two hours, and thirty-five minutes later, I again held her hand and told her that I loved her as she slipped away from me. It was five months and three days after we learned that she had brain cancer.
Our life together was not a storybook, but we lived happily as “ever after” as anyone. We have two fine sons who have become men anyone would be proud to know. Three grandchildren were her greatest joy. I was only a few months to retirement and the beginning of a more relaxed time in our lives. We had looked forward to it for years. Neither of us had any regrets about our time together.
My life has changed a great deal since becoming a “single man” again. Retirement for me is exploration. My days are full. I have been blessed again to meet a woman who loves life and children and music and the joy of living. We share so many commonalities that much of our laughter is the constant discoveries of those things we share, including memories of Nancy. This is not the life I thought I would be living, but Eleanor Shirley and I plan to make the very most of many years together. Our pasts are part of the foundation of our relationship.
I am still wearing the ring Nancy placed on my finger, just on the other hand. I rarely take it off. I plan to wear it until I, too, pass on. The fact that it’s on the “wrong” finger means that I notice it often. I like that. You see, I wear it as a reminder of many things.
First of all, of course, my wedding band reminds me of the life I had with that wonderful woman. Each time it makes me notice it, I recall some event or person or emotion of those forty years. They made me the person I am today. Sometimes I smile through bittersweet tears.
This circle of gold also reminds me that life itself is a circle. It turns on itself through all the stages and ages. I stop now and then, when my ring prompts me, and think about watching my sons and grandchildren grow and become the people they are or will be. I am also reminded that I am changing, too.
And thinking of those stages, I am reminded that we cannot know how long they might be. The golden moments may shine for years and years, or for only a very short time, but they all come to an end. I try to be aware of every one, each shining aspect of my life. I look more closely, listen more carefully, breathe more deeply of life. I acknowledge people. I try to be kind to everyone. I make the effort to appreciate what each person brings to the world and understand everyone’s struggles and applaud the successes. Most of all, I tell those I love just how much they mean to me. Often. Daily if I can.
I have learned that I may lose these joys at any moment, so I want to enjoy every moment and everyone who is part of them.
Thank you, all of you, who are part of my life. A shining circle of gold reminds me each day to embrace you and our life together. I hope to hold you within the circle of my arms any time that I can—BIG HUG! Know that you will always be part of the circle of my life.