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That Valentine

I needed an amethyst ring to wear on my right hand. I would never take it off.

My husband and I walked around the mall on Valentine’s Day, holding hands. We entered every jewelry store with the sole aim to find my amethyst, buy it, and go home to our children.

Optimistic salesmen greeted us warmly. Valentine’s Day means guaranteed sales from starry-eyed people in love. If I didn’t know better, I’d say diamonds and gems are formed by the pressure of salespeople’s handshakes. The gleam of little rocks on velvet trays barely rival the bright smiles of everyone who works on commission.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Two days earlier, I had been in the hospital having a procedure to end my sixth pregnancy. The baby had been dead for a couple of weeks. I was blindsided by the news during an ultrasound, leaving me reeling with grief and confusion and anger.

I spent the next day in bed, reading about pregnancy loss and grief. One of the bits of advice I read was to buy a piece of memorial jewelry. I pictured an amethyst ring. It is February’s birthstone.

I would wear it on my right hand as a reminder and as a symbol of who was missing.

Our encounters at the jewelry stores were soul-jarring and somewhat comical. Could I have picked a worse day to go memorial jewelry shopping than Valentine’s Day?

The unapologetic enthusiasm about the pretty pink holiday was in stark contrast to the state of my heart, but I kept it inside. Not once did we reveal that the ring we wanted was in memory of our lost baby. What a Cupid killer.

I rebuffed all offers to try on diamonds, explaining I really only wanted to see the amethysts. Most assumed it was my birthstone. Or the lady likes amethysts. Go figure.

I pecked at a dozen rings. I tried them on. We left one store and went to the next a few mall doors down. We went to another and another. Soon, I had a short list of my favorite rings. We returned to re-see, to re-try, to contemplate, to compare the purples. It took hours.

Finally, I settled on a simple oval amethyst with two meek diamonds, one set on each side. The diamonds were barely noticeable, but I fixated on them. They were like my husband and like me. The two of us had a big, garish, cutting sadness—almost drowning us out.

At the time, that was how the grief felt. Larger than anything, ever. I had never felt smaller, lonelier, or more insignificant than during those days six Februarys ago.

Time has been good to us. It’s healed my heart. It brought three more pregnancy losses, but it’s also seen Beatrix, Archie, and Teddy join our family. They would have never been born.

I still wear the ring every day.

The meaning of Valentine’s Day has changed for me. I get mildly irritated when people rail against the day as made up by Hallmark to sell cards. Maybe the materialistic modern version of the holiday is solely a way to unload chocolates and roses on pretty girls. What’s not to resent or declare trivial?

Valentine’s Day will forever be the day I navigated dozens of gem-stuffed cases with my husband by my side, tightly holding my hand, looking for my heart.

It wasn’t there.

But he was.

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