A ring can mean many things because it is a symbol of many things. It is an exterior sign of a commitment, life vows, a reminder of faithfulness, enduring love. Losing a beloved ring can be emotionally traumatic. It’s a failure of sorts and shows terrible carelessness.

Susan Bassler Pickford and Sam. Photo courtesy of Susan Bassler Pickford

My mother, Ethel, gave me a gold ring four years before she died. It was engraved on the inside with my name. The outside boasted the Harvard insignia. I had received a Certificate of Advanced Study from the university in 1993. Entering menopause, I was advanced as well. My mom had supported my efforts with words and financial aid and was proud of me.

For 28 years I have worn the gold ring remembering her daily with love in my heart. Once I thought I’d lost it while teaching as an adjunct at the University of New England’s Biddeford campus. I searched frantically and retraced my steps from the car to my office. When I got home, I saw it sitting on my bedside table. I was so relieved.

Last week, for the first time, I placed the ring on my granddaughter’s finger. Hoping to inspire her. Hoping to leave her a legacy of expectation.

This week, happy to be swimming again in Wadleigh Pond, I paddled around getting reacquainted with the water. Then I turned on my back and enthusiastically threw my left arm over my head for a backstroke. It felt so good. Toweling off, I looked down at my left hand and realized the ring was no longer on my finger. It had slipped off during my backstroke. Hope says, “it may be found,” but reality says, “probably not.”

I feel terrible that I have lost a ring that I cherished for so long. I feel terrible that I won’t be able to bequeath it to my granddaughter. But strangely, I don’t feel bad that the ring sits at the bottom of Wadleigh Pond. If I had to lose it anywhere, I’m happy to imagine it there. Friends and family will swim over it, kayakers will glide over it. I will paddle over the gold ring knowing that it cannot be lost ever again. A ring is, after all, a symbol and sign of love – not love itself. I think that my mother, who loved the water and swimming, would understand how I lost her keepsake of gold.

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