Several years ago I purchased a ring from a high-end jewelry store, but it could have been from anywhere. I loved the design of the Trinity ring from the moment I saw the Cartier ad in the New York Times. It was an extravagant purchase for me, as my Midwestern nature doesn't lend itself to too many non-utilitarian purchases. In my early 40s and going through two really painful breakups at the office and home at the time, I needed to show myself that I was, as the expression goes, worth it.
I loved the way the ring, three separate circles intertwined, twirled when I played with it. The three rings spun me through more than a few boring meetings and entertained my fidgets on countless occasions. I don't think it's easy to admit that one loves a material thing, but I loved that ring.
A few years after I bought the ring, I discovered the second reason why I had. My life long friend, Ann Murray Paige, had just been diagnosed again with breast cancer. A larger than life person with two small children and a devoted husband, Ann was getting pulled in a million directions by family and friends who loved her. Knowing how selfless and giving my cousin had always been, I was concerned.
Days after her diagnosis, we were together in her home in Davis, CA, talking about the horrible news over a cup of her favorite Dunkin Donuts coffee. In an unplanned moment of divine intervention, I took off the ring. Where my words came from was a mystery.
"This ring is meant for you. It's to remind you of your holy trinity of Me, Myself and I. Every time you look down and see it, I want you to remember to put yourself first."
We cried for a few minutes, and then Ann did something wildly unusual for her. She accepted the gift without protest. On some level she knew it was meant for her. Neither of us was surprised when the ring fit her perfectly.
She said she would will it back to me, but I refused it in no uncertain terms. I knew she was supposed to plot the next part of the ring's journey, not me.
Ann died with our ring on her finger on March 16th, 2014. It meant the world to me that, for years, she wore it every day. Selfishly, it made me feel as if I was holding her hand through the hell that is metastatic breast cancer. For a few precious years, it was her constant reminder of Me, and Myself and I.
The Thursday night before her wake, I was greeted by one of Ann's closest friends at Ann's home. Carol Tran was one of the many angels that surrounded Ann in Davis, and I had known her for years. Along with Mary Liu and scores of other kind, loving and generous individuals in their community, Carol consistently and selflessly showed up for Ann.
On "Wake Eve" as we called it, the Paige family home was filled with friends and relatives. Carol brought me into Ann and husband Sandy's bathroom so we could speak privately. We sat on the carpeted floor, right next to the bedroom where Ann had passed away just days before.
"I couldn't text you or tell you over the phone" she said. And then, with tears filling her eyes, she held out her hand.
The ring fit perfectly. Just as it was supposed to. Just as it was meant to be.
Through tears I told Carol why I bought the ring, and why I gave it to Ann. It was up to Carol now to decide why it was meant for her, but I had my guess. I believe it was so she would always remember the deep connection she has to Ann and to her other ring sister.
August 20th would have been my sister/cousin Ann's 49th birthday. On August 19th I will turn 50. It will be an especially difficult time for all of us who love and miss our Ann. And even though I can't be in California with Ann's band of angels, I know one thing for certain:
Ann will be spinning her ring in heaven along with her sisters here on earth.