They asked, or I volunteered, or both.
As the five of us looked on at her dead body, and an apparently-appropriate-to-someone amount of time had passed, the mother-in-law made a gentle suggestion to remove her wedding ring.
After a ridiculous round of “not it” by the others in the room, when I was willing but didn’t want to be misunderstood, I said I would do it, as long as it wouldn’t be held against me by the husband. He said it would not.
Her fingers were not just yet as cold as might be expected. And I appreciated another opportunity to hold her hand. But I’ll be damned if I could remove the ring.
I excused myself to go down the hall to get my purse and find my lotion. The others nodded, stricken by shock and numb to any sort of upset, not yet raw-nerved.
I used the lotion just now, three weeks later, for the first time since. It’s an amazingly comforting scent, supposedly lavender-mint julep, but to me smells like IKEA cinnamon buns. It had its own set of prior associations, thank goodness. Farmhouse Fresh Fluffy Bunny Shea Butter Hand Cream. Of all the names. She would have found it so ridiculous. The name, the suggestion, the scene itself.
I smoothed some around her knuckle and wriggled the ring off. I tried to hand it to the husband. He, or maybe the mother-in-law, told me to hold onto it, and to put it in her jewelry box when we returned home. There was an empty space on the top left side of the box, right next to an oval turquoise ring I never knew she had. A turquoise ring, like the one I’d been wearing for the past week, the one that kept getting in the way of her fingers as she tried to hold my hand, and that I stopped wearing so she could. A turquoise ring the husband later told me he’d bought for her and she’d never resized to actually fit and wear. Next to the wedding ring. The one she’d never be able to actually fit and wear either anymore.