This is Gunga’s ring. It goes to you when I die.
It is something my mother said to me at least a thousand times over the course of her life, each time pointing to the antique diamond ring she wore on her right hand, a ring that had belonged to her grandmother, a ring Mom wore every day.
I know, Mom, I know I said a thousand times in return, rolling my eyes at her need to reiterate.
And here I am now, eight months after that cold winter day we laid my mother to rest. It has taken some time—I know it always does—to address the endless details in the settling of her affairs. Thanks to my devoted brother, William, Mom’s every request is being honored. As of Thursday night, Gunga’s ring is on my right hand.
I am surprised at the weight of this transfer of ring from Gunga to La-La to Mom to me. It carries with it a strange mix of emotions, from comfort and connection to deep deep sadness—a mixed bag I shared with my husband this afternoon as we took a quiet moment to talk about the week’s events. He listened generously, but in the mere telling of the story I realized something of significance: The grief is intensely private when a daughter loses her mother.
Nevertheless, a few minutes later he walked through the living room and stopped to put his arms around me.
It makes it so real that she is gone I said, my eyes filling with tears. It makes me so sad.
He looked at me and smiled.
Well, at least she didn’t have to suffer through that awful football game last night*, he said.
I couldn’t help but laugh. Mom and Dad were there for every game during my four years at Clemson, a magical time capped off with a national championship my senior year. How we hoped for a repeat this year, with the beautiful and unlikely parallel 31 years later for Eliza, now in her junior year at Clemson—my daughter, Mom’s granddaughter, La-La’s great-granddaughter, Gunga’s great-great-granddaughter.
And then I laughed again, knowing exactly how likely it is that the next time I see my sweet girl, I will point to my right hand and say emphatically This is Gunga’s ring. It goes ….
*Florida State over my beloved Clemson Tigers 51-14.