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Two Rings

Recently I gave two different women diamond engagement rings. I even got them together in the same
room, so they could compare rings. Not only was there no jealousy, but they were also both absolutely
thrilled for each other. Since I’m neither the world’s biggest jerk (debatable) nor the greatest lover
(laughable), what gives?

What gives is one ring is a memory and the other is a promise. The first ring belonged to my wife,
Barbara. It was a symbol of our love and lifelong commitment to each other. When I put it on her finger
45 years ago, I promised to take her as my wife “…to have and to hold from this day forward, for better
or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, until death do us part.” The
chorus to a White Lion song says, “All through your life, I’ll be by your side, till death do us part.” And
that was where I was, by her side, when death parted us two and a half years ago.

That ring is now a family heirloom that will be passed down for generations to come. It is a reminder, to
paraphrase Proverbs 13:22, that through a life well lived, Barbara left an inheritance for her children and
for a thousand generations to come. My oldest granddaughter is now the keeper of Barbara’s ring.

The second engagement ring is on the finger of my wife, Jill. It is a promise to love her and a
commitment to stand by her. On the Handmade Engagement Rings website, it is noted that “in antiquity
it was believed that the ring finger had a direct connection to the heart and so the partner put the ring
on the left hand of his fiancée - the side of the heart – as a sign of infinite love and eternal connection.”

Love may be infinite and eternal, but Ecclesiastes reminds us that life isn’t. It is short, fleeting, and
meaningless. As the Message version so graphically describes, “…there’s neither work to do nor
thoughts to think in the company of the dead, where you’re most certainly headed.” While this might
not be encouraging, it is realistic. I know full well after watching a spouse die and then three weeks later
being diagnosed with kidney cancer that death is an impossibility that suddenly becomes a reality.

However, accepting this reality is not morbid or depressing. In a strange way, it is quite freeing because
you start thinking about how to live. In Living Life Backwards, David Gibson mentions that “We tend to
live as if the one thing that is certain will never come… [but] my death is certain… it is the timing… that is
uncertain… So, what should life in the meantime look like?” His answer, which he gleaned from
Ecclesiastes, is to “enjoy the gifts God has given you, the simple things that give you pleasure.”

Gibson says that “Gift, not gain, is your new motto. Life is not about the meaning that you can create for
your own life, or… that you can find in… your work and ambitions. You do not find meaning in life simply
by finding a partner or having kids or being rich. You find meaning when you realize that God has given
you life in his world and any one of those things as a gift to enjoy.”

That’s why Ecclesiastes directs us to “Enjoy life with the woman you love. Cherish every moment of the
fleeting life which God has given you under the sun. For this is your lot in life, your great reward for all of
your hard work under the sun.” And that’s why Gibson urges us to “…cherish and protect the person
God has given you… If you are too busy to enjoy the life you have together, then you are too busy.”

I gave two rings. One reminded me life is short and the other that a spouse is a precious gift. Based on
that reality, I changed the way I live. I see my life, wife, family, and friends as gifts to be enjoyed for as
long as I have left. This Christmas, if you love someone, I encourage you to -- in the words of Cody
Johnson -- “Hold 'em as long and as strong and as close as you can, 'til you can't.” Merry Christmas