I had been walking my 1-year-old daughter Hailey in her stroller on a chilly October morning while listening to my favorite playlist. I was enjoying the brisk air and the sight of the beautiful, changing leaves when suddenly something didn’t feel quite right. I realized my right hand felt odd—it felt bare. I ran my other finger up and down my ring finger a few times and sure enough, there was nothing on it. This is when my heart sank and I started to sweat. 

Where is it? I just had it on my finger! I frantically searched the grass and retraced every step I had taken in the park.

Deep down, I knew I had just lost my most prized possession—my mother’s wedding ring. 

My mother died a year earlier from breast cancer, and I had been wearing her ring on my right ring finger as a way to feel close to her. Even though it was a half-size too big, I kept telling myself I would get it resized but procrastination had gotten the best of me.

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I squinted back through the grass and pavement, retracing every step. I had already walked about a quarter of a mile, so there was a lot of surface area to scour. I searched the park high and low.

I couldn’t find it and panic began to set in. 

I must have left it at the house. I tried to convince myself as a way to subconsciously calm myself down. 

I rushed back to my car and searched it first. I rummaged through every nook and cranny. I checked the floor, under seats, and even under my daughter’s car seat, which only left me with half-eaten pretzels, Goldfish crumbs, and shame about how dirty my car actually was. 

Since I had no luck searching the car, I then checked every area of my house and ended up empty-handed. My heart was now almost pounding out of my chest, and I was in full-blown panic mode.

I needed this ring. It was on her finger when my mom took her last few breaths on this Earth. More importantly, she wanted me to have it.

I kissed it every morning, before bed, and sporadically throughout the day. To me, the ring was what I, physically, had left of my mom. I wore it every day without ever taking it off to keep her close. And now, she was gone—again.

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Over the next week, I searched the park continuously. I called the police station numerous times to see if anyone had brought it in, I put up fliers, and even went to local pawn shops in the area, but I always ended up empty-handed.

I knew in my heart it was gone forever. 

I felt like I had let my mom down, I was supposed to keep this ring as a family heirloom and pass it down to my own daughter. I blamed myself for not getting it resized and for going to the park on that very chilly day without wearing any gloves. What was I thinking?

The hurt of losing this ring ran deep. I wouldn’t really get over it until a few years later when, ironically, I lost a diamond from my own wedding ring. When I lost the diamond, I was upset, but not as upset as I was about my mom’s ring. Maybe it was because my husband was still alive or because I knew it was just a material possession. This ring was a symbol of mine and my husband’s love, but it wasn’t just our love. There was much more to our relationship than a piece of jewelry. 

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I still get upset thinking about mom’s lost ring, but having memories of her that are still very much present, make it a little better. I see traces of her in me and my daughters, including the way we all scrunch up our noses when we laugh or the fact we all have a great sense of humor just as she did.

I am my mom’s living heirloom, and she is alive in me.

This is something I can never lose and everything I learned and inherited from her will be passed down from generation to generation. To me, this is a greater gift than any ring could be.

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My mom is present in my life through the love I have for my own family, through the recipes she passed down to me, and through all the wonderful memories I can now look back on and smile about. Sometimes, I can almost hear her voice in my head yelling at me for being so upset about a ring. Of course, I wish I had it back, but instead, I live through my mom’s spirit and that is something I can never lose.

Rachel ODonnell

Rachel O'Donnell lives in New Jersey with her husband and two young, energetic daughters. When she's not running around with her children, she teaches English and writing classes part-time. Her writing focuses on overcoming grief and obstacles and discovering gratitude in trying situations.