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The Ring This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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The tradition was to be buried in your finest and most sentimental life possessions. This meant jewels, earrings, rings and your great-grandma’s second favorite pearls (her first were, of course, with her own body). Every adornment that you spent more than a year with deserved its place at your side. The younger family members peered over into the open casket, reaching out to smooth back her hair and then drawing back at the cold that radiated off her. Only a few realized what was missing. To them the tan line on her left index, right under her wedding ring, stood out like a beacon. And they wondered, where was the ring? The one she’d received on her thirteenth birthday from a winking uncle, who insisted it had spent generations in that same family. Its glistening sapphire, he explained, was crafted as the birthstone of his great great great aunt back in Ireland. A January baby, she was skeptical, but it found its place on her right hand anyway.

It was the ring that followed her from her lush green village to the valleys of pavement that is New York City. From job to job, she wore that ring, attempting every trade a winning smile could help her with. That winning smile landed her the job of her life and a man with it- his hands trembling as he stands vigil by her casket- who took her on picnics and learned her story. It was those hands, steadier than they are now, that pulled the ring from her finger and turned the heart her way. It wasn’t long before they found that picnic blanket again, this time to add another ring. Of that day he remembers two things distinctly- the beautiful blue stone turned again as he slid it onto her left hand- and her eyes meeting his, the decision written all over them before she even spoke the word. Her eyes were closed now, and he squeezed his shut, wishing he could still see what she saw. Wishing their eyes could meet again.

The ring was turned for the last time in January, two days before her birthday. They celebrated in Europe, touring countries she’d never before seen, and then ended back in her homeland. There she heard of her beloved uncle’s passing. Her casket is like his was, open and simple, both simply sleeping with smiles on their faces. She cried and he held her hand. He could still remember that. The coolness of it, now clasped in front of her, with both rings brushing his palm.

She died twenty years later. He stood with hands at his sides, eyes closed, trying to forget how alone he was. The young relatives were no comfort, their grief obvious, many murmuring about the missing claddagh ring. The ring. He had not even thought of the ring, until he felt it, slipping into his palm again. She had snuck up behind him, her sobs quieted. She took his left hand in her right, holding on for dear life as she had years ago at the beach, or the park, when all three of them walked together. The coolness of the ring struck him again, and he reached out and pulled his daughter into his arms.

She was born in September, four years after that honeymoon. A baby girl. Angela had smiled down at her and taken both their hands in hers.

“My daughter,” she whispered. “I can’t wait to show you my beautiful world.”



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