My mother, at 94 years old, still has delicate thin fingers, but I seem to have inherited my father’s gene in respect of a tendency to swollen joints, and my ring-finger was becoming increasingly troublesome. Although it was swollen, and there would likely never now be any possibility of slipping the ring over the middle joint, I had hoped there would not be a need, but when I woke yesterday morning with a very sore finger I knew the ring had to be removed. Perhaps the cold weather had made it worse, I don’t know, but after an unsuccessful attempt at a method for getting rings off found on you-tube, Martin fetched his tool-box.
Mum gave me the ring when I was a teenager. She had worn it since 1944, when she and Dad were married, and he had bought her a new ring for their 25th Wedding Anniversary. They bought it at Woolworths, and it had been decorated with orange-flower leaves, she told me, but they had worn down somewhat, and now, after almost 50 years of my wearing it daily, have completely disappeared.
I believe that our marriage is, of course, only symbolised by the wedding ring, but nonetheless, and I’m sure I share this with many others, there’s something distressing about cutting it off my hand. In due course perhaps I will take it to a jewellers and have it soldered so that I can at least wear it on a chain round my neck.
We all know that when we pass out of this life we can’t take anything material with us, but we all cherish certain items we deem precious and meaningful. We have a number of family heirlooms, not valuable in monetary terms, but which give a kind of continuity, of heritage: my father-in-law’s football trophy, my son’s first Clarks shoes, my Nanna’s kitchen-tongs (still in almost daily use!).
How painful it must be for the many dispossessed, fleeing from war, terror, desperate want, who can’t take these things with them. I often think of my late friend Max, who lost most of his family in the Holocaust, and who came to Britain on a Kindertransport. He had to make a new life here, and had virtually no mementoes of his loved ones. But at least he was given sanctuary - which sadly is no longer on offer in Britain today to so many who need it.