Publishing the true stories of fascinating Prairie People and Unsung Heroes

Welcome to the blog of Deana Driver of DriverWorks Ink, a book publishing company based in Saskatchewan, Canada.
We publish stories of inspiring, fascinating Prairie people and unsung Canadian heroes - written by
Prairie authors including Deana Driver. We also assist authors in self-publishing their work. Visit our website and buy our books at driverworks.ca.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Seeing this "Little Coat" inspired a country singer to write an award-winning book

Canadian soldier Bob Elliott and his crew asked a Dutch seamstress to make this child's coat from a Canadian Army blanket. The buttons came from the soldiers' tunics. The soldiers gave the coat to their "good-luck charm", 10-year-old Sussie Cretier, on Christmas Day 1944.
Alan J. Buick was a full-time carpentry instructor and a part-time country singer when he noticed the unique child's coat in a case on display in Olds, Alberta. Here is  what the first glimpse of that little coat meant to him:

Seeing the “little coat” for the first time - at the Royal Canadian Legion in Olds, Alberta in September 2004 - filled me with bewilderment more than passion. I asked a friend, who had come to hear my wife Carol and I play music that night, why this coat with Canadian Army buttons was displayed with all the wartime memorabilia; it was far too small for a soldier to have worn. My friend proceeded to relate some of the story behind its creation – it was a Christmas gift in 1944 from Canadian soldiers to a 10-year-old Dutch girl who had become a good-luck charm for them; she later brought the coat to Canada.

It was then that my passion for this tale began.

The most powerful moment was when I learned that the little Dutch girl who wore the coat and the soldier who gave it to her were not only still alive in 2004, but married to each other! I knew I had an epic by the tail! I had to find out more.

I contacted Bob and Sue Elliott - the Canadian soldier and the Dutch girl - who were at that time living in the Netherlands. The email address I'd been given for them failed, so snail mail was the only other choice. They replied to my letter and the journey to turn their story into a book began.

These were Sue's words: "I have no problem telling you what it was like growing up under Nazi rule, but good luck when you get to Bob!”

She was right. Bob, like many veterans, preferred not to talk about the horrors of war; the recollections opened old wounds long forgotten.

Bob and Sue and I met face-to-face at the Royal Canadian Legion hall in Olds, Alberta in October 2005 to discuss the procedure for writing this book. It was a truly amazing day. Just talking to these two wonderful people who had endured so much was an awe-inspiring experience for me.

 
Bob and Sue (Sussie) Elliott in 2005 with Sue's little coat on display at the Royal Canadian Legion in Olds, Alberta, Canada.

I knew I had not collected all the information I needed that day. The journey I had chosen was both humbling and difficult. I was dealing with 65-year-old memories! A good example of this was the day before my publisher, Deana Driver, was to send the manuscript off to print, Sue told me of the German soldier who visited with her family frequently. This information had to be included in the book as it showed how not all German people were evil.

At the close of our 2005 meeting, Sue asked me what she should do with her little coat. I said it should be in a museum, where it would inform future generations of the compassion and generosity Canadian soldiers had for the emaciated and spiritually worn-down peoples of the Netherlands. They contacted the Canadian War Museum, which promptly sent two representatives to the Olds Legion to carefully prepare this ancient garment for the long flight to Ottawa.

 
Alan J. Buick, author of the award-winning, Canadian best-selling book The Little Coat: The Bob and Sue Elliott Story, available from www.driverworks.ca
  
Prior to the official book launch, scheduled to take place at the Olds Legion on November 11, 2009, a pre-launch gathering was held at the Armoury Officers' Mess in Regina. As strange as it may sound and with fate in our corner, one of the officials from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands happened to be present that night, Hans Moor. We gave him a copy of my book, The Little Coat: The Bob and Sue Elliott Story, and he read it on his flight back to Ottawa.

A few weeks later, I was invited by him to attend a function at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa to honour the Canadian soldiers of World War II who repatriated the Netherlands. This was an amazing evening. There was I, a New Zealand farmboy, rubbing shoulders and chatting with Dutch Ambassador Wim Geerts and General Charles Belzile, retired commander of the Canadian Forces! A truly humbling and memorable experience.

My most touching moment on that trip was seeing "the child's coat" in its restored state and mounted in a beautiful glass case, complete with a bronze plaque briefly explaining what it was and what it represented. It literally brought me to tears. The War Museum staff had done an excellent job of presenting this wonderful artifact.

 
Alan J. Buick seeing the child's coat at the Canadian War Museum.
(Photo courtesy of Hans Moor, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Ottawa, ON) 

It is difficult to pinpoint any incident I told in The Little Coat book as being more significant than another but, if I were to pick just one, it would be when Sussie's (Sue's) family escaped on foot for two kilometres to the safety of the Canadian lines while her family was under fire from German soldiers.

The Little Coat is a perennial story, a story of love and compassion, of terror and human relationships – a perfect gift for men, women, and children ages 10 and up, or even just because. Once you read it, you'll understand the gratitude the Dutch still have for Canadians today and forever. This book captures the true compassion of the Canadian soldiers for the Dutch people in their darkest hour.


Editor's note: The Little Coat: The Bob and Sue Elliott Story was awarded Honourable Mention, 2010 Hollywood Book Festival. $4,500 from sales of The Little Coat has been donated to the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command Poppy Trust Fund. $1 from every book sold from 2013 on is donated to the Canadian War Museum, the new home of the 'child's coat' in this inspiring war story turned love story.


Friday, November 17, 2017

A haircut and a hug from Poland

On a particularly emotional day a few months ago, I decided to get a haircut. I had been missing my departed loved ones – my husband, my parents, and my parents-in-laws – more than usual. I needed to do something to boost my spirits.

Instead of going to my usual salon, I went to a new place.

I am the kind of person who doesn't really enjoy chatting the whole time that my hair is being cut - partly because I can't see without my glasses on and partly because I am not comfortable chatting or sharing details of my personal life with a room full of strangers.

But this day was different.

The woman who cut my hair had an accent. My curious journalist-self kicked in and I asked her where she was from.

"Poland," she said.

Interesting, I thought.

"My mother was born in Poland, and my dad was born in a part of Ukraine that was Poland at one time," I told her.

This led to a conversation about whether I speak the Polish language (I don't); how long she's been in Canada (two years; she and her husband came for better work opportunities); how I and my husband wanted to go to Poland when we were in Europe in 2013 but we ran out of time, however my youngest sister went to Ukraine that year and saw the area where our dad was born. 

The hairdresser asked whether I make any Polish food.

"I don't but my mom made perogies and cabbages rolls. What kinds of food do you make?" I asked her.

She told me she likes perogies, but she puts all kinds of different things in them - "white cheese, broccoli, garlic  - delicious!" 

Just then, I glanced up as she was trimming on one side of my head and I saw her name tag.
"Agnieszka." 


I was dumbfounded. "Oh my gosh! That's my mother's name!" I exclaimed. "Agnes."

"Yes," she replied. "It is hard for people to say here."

I miss my mother very much. She was a strong, faithful Christian woman with a zany sense of humour and a passion for bright-coloured blouses.

I sat in awe of this circumstance – a Polish hairdresser who shared the same name as my mom.

I will not call it is a coincidence. In my daughter Lisa Driver’s first award-winning book, Opening Up: How To Develop Your Intuition and WorkWith Your Angels, she notes that what we often think of as “coincidences” are actually signs that the universe is sending us a message. Our angels want to let us know they are with us. I have had too many “coincidence” experiences in my life to just set these aside as accidental. The probabilities of me going to that shop on that day at that time when that particular hairdresser was available to cut my hair are too big to comprehend. Everything aligned for that to happen.

I sat and enjoyed the rest of the cut – which is difficult to do when you’re almost blind without your glasses on!

When the haircut was done, I put my glasses back on and noticed a keychain that was hanging on the drawer handle in front of the salon chair.

"I love Poland," it said.

I smiled.

I asked if I could take a photo of it.



 “Yes,” Agnesiewska replied. “This is better, " she added as she turned the ornament around to show me the other side of it.

"I Love Polska."

Much better.

I felt a huge grin forming on my face. A message of love from my angel mom. A reminder of my Polish heritage.

As I was paying for the trim, Agnesiewska asked me, "Your mother - she lives?" 

"No,” I replied. “She passed away in 2011.”

"Oh... I sorry." 

This precious Polish woman paused just long enough for me to let her response sink in.

Then she sighed and added, "Ah... Life!"

Life indeed.

Monday, September 25, 2017

GRIEF AND LOVE ARE INTERTWINED


July 4, 2017 - A couple hours from now will mark 18 months since my wonderful husband, Al, left this earth to join the rest of the angels. (I can see some of you snickering right now because there were pieces of Al's personality that weren't exactly angelic ... and he would roll his eyes at that first sentence, I'm sure ... but none of us are perfect either and I believe his hug-filled, loving spirit is in a beautiful place right now, doing God's work.)

Anyway ... as I was saying...

Like the rose I planted in Al's memory, I and our children (and our closest family and friends) have had ups and downs these past 18 months. We've had moments of blossoming and beauty, and moments of wilting and falling apart. We are continuing to live our lives though, one moment at a time, one day at a time, one season at a time, and we thank you for standing by us and nurturing us, especially when we needed it most.

​We are healing. Grieving still, but healing a bit more every day. 

Our children and I have honoured Al in our own ways - with words both written and spoken, with plants and other memorials, with donations to charities he would love, and in trying to be the best people we can be. We will continue to keep his name on our lips and in our hearts as we move forward in our lives without him.

I've learned that grief is more about love than it is about loss. Yes, we miss the one who died, but we wouldn't grieve them if we didn't love them.

We grieve because we loved. They are intertwined and will always be so.

" 'Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all," wrote Lord Alfred Tennyson. I agree.

I and many of you won't forget Al or our story together. I wouldn't have it any other way. He was a big, bold, rambunctious blessing to me and to so many others, including many of you who are reading this. Thank you for helping me, our children, and our closest family and friends get through these 18 months.

​We will be fine. He wouldn't want it any other way.

Let's carry on.
In full bloom, the Winnipeg Parks rose bush purchased and planted in our yard in memory of Al.



Thursday, September 14, 2017

GROWING AND BLOSSOMING FROM A GRIEF RETREAT

This post was written on July 23, 2017. 

Yesterday was a good day. There were many moments of sadness, tears, and sorrow, but there were also moments of healing, laughter, and grace. It was good.

I am grateful for any "good" part of any day that has come my way since my husband died in January 2016. Anyone who knew my fun-loving, hug-giving Al knows that my life isn't nearly as "good" or as funny now as it has been for the last 40 years with him by my side. But I am trying, and yesterday was a big step towards more healing, learning, and peace as I was one of about 60 people who participated in the first-ever, full-day Heart 2 Heart Family Grief Retreat hosted by Palliative Care Services of the Regina and Qu’Appelle Health Region. It was fabulous.

We spent most of the day in group sessions that were specific to our type of loss and age group.


The session in which we shared our individual stories of losing our spouse was one of the hardest parts of the day. It was an important exercise that led to more healing, but many of us found it extremely painful to talk again about our losses – all involving palliative care circumstances – and to listen to the stories of the others in the room. However, telling the story is an important part of the process of grieving.

This sharing forged a strong, almost instant bond among us. We built on that as we attended workshops, yoga, meditation, made pebble art, exchanged information and fun stories about our loved ones, ate snacks and meals, discussed coping strategies, and so much more.

I was exhausted emotionally and physically at the end of the day, but the memories and the toolkit of tips and reminders that I carried home were priceless.

I was reminded that I am not alone on this grief journey. Others are also hurting, but there is help available if we are brave enough to seek it. Talking to other widows and widowers can be painful but helpful as they have also experienced the excruciating loss of a life partner. They do not judge; they listen and support. These are difficult skills to learn and put into action. I’m still working on them myself.

We received a wonderful handout with information from Victoria Hospice.​ I will read this handout many times over the coming days and months, and check other resources online and with a counsellor to continue with the process of grieving and healing.

I was reminded about the tips in my own blog post, “What I’ve Learned About Grief”, that I wrote just one month after Al died. I decided it would be important to share that information again because it could help someone. (Here’s the link.) I was reminded to reread my own blog post and to try to live those words, being gentle with myself – especially in my sadder, lonelier moments.

I learned about the power of self-compassion meditation from a Regina meditation instructor who also told us of the meditations of Tara Brach, available online. The instructor led us in an exercise where we placed our hands, one on top of the other, over our hearts and tuned into our breathing and feelings. The theory is that you let your thoughts float gently through your mind without judgment and you concentrate on your breath, just being in the moment for a few precious minutes of your busy day.

We talked later about how, when we lose our spouse, intimacy in the form of a daily hug or touch of a hand on the shoulder or arm is gone. We need to learn to be kind and compassionate to ourselves. We learned that touching our own hand, stroking our own cheek, or holding our hands over our heart can calm us and give us comfort. This 15-minute exercise helped many of us and gave a name to something I had found myself doing often when I felt anxious or sad. I learned this hands-over-heart idea a few months ago from my dear friend Susan. I did not know it had a name or a specific, science-based purpose until now. I was grateful for this meditation session.


On my way back to the retreat sessions from the park where we meditated, I noticed an abundance of beautiful flowers on the edge of the community garden nearby. I had sat by the other side of this large garden earlier in the day during a moment of grief after I saw all the photos of deceased loved ones, including a photo of my Al, on a memorial table. My mind quickly said, “He doesn’t belong there,” but I’m sure every other person at that retreat thought the same about their loved one. Still, the sight of Al's photo on a table with about 40 other photos hit me in an unexpected moment and I went outside and cried, stared at the garden, collected myself, then went back inside.

I had not noticed the flowers at the edge of the garden until then.


​I stopped to not only smell the roses but to take some photos.




Flowers make me smile and, at that moment, this garden was the fitting end to the meditation session. Flowers are colourful and full of life. They give me pause and hope for the future.​

We ended the day with a memorial service for our loved ones. We wrote their name or a note or a wish to them on a small paper “ornament” and hung it on a tree as we entered the chapel. We listened to inspirational words, in prose and poetry, sang a song with piano and guitar accompaniment, stared at our lit candles, and sat in silence. 



“Grieving is hard work,” a friend and pastor reminds me regularly. So yesterday was a good day of hard work.

​​I left the retreat grateful for the counsellors, leaders and volunteers who did so much to make it a good day; for the other participants who shared their stories and wisdom so freely; and for my family, who supported me with a debriefing and constant love as I made my way one more step along this road that we did not choose.

This summer when I was visiting my oldest daughter and her family, I bought a garden stone that sums up this story.

Gardening brings me peace. ​Gardening is good.

We are never sure of what tomorrow may bring, but we can carry on and live in hope, with the help of others. 




Monday, September 11, 2017

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, SIZE DOESN’T MATTER


It is one of the smallest plants in my garden, slightly bigger than my cellphone, but it is mighty.
 
This beautiful mini rose was a gift from a dear friend, in memory of a granddaughter that we lost at birth years ago. This little rose is an indoor plant. It was not meant to handle the harsh weather and severe winters of Western Canada. But it has survived and thrived in my garden for eight years, and I have loved it dearly.

Most years, it has been bountiful, producing a multitude of gorgeous flowers all summer long, filling that part of my garden with precious yellow petals. This year, I thought the rose bush was gone forever. There was no sign of it in June, July or the first two weeks of August. Suddenly, in mid-August, it appeared out of nowhere, shooting its tiny self out of the ground and up toward the sky.
 
A few leaves began to show and then a tiny bud came, followed soon by another bud. I was elated.
 
This little plant, you see, is a symbol of life to me. Although it marks the passing of a dear one, it also brings a sign of hope for the future. Its beauty shines into every new day and lifts me up with hope for happier times ahead.

​Sometimes life throws nasty curveballs at us. We can duck out of the way sometimes, but there are times when we are hit and badly bruised. Sometimes we are smacked right in the forehead and temporarily knocked out. But it’s important that we try hard to get back up - to regain our consciousness and shake off the cobwebs. Then we must stand up as tall as we can and keep on going. It’s not easy, but we have to try.

My granddaughter’s rose and other plants are a reminder of that for me. When the going gets tough, we need to find a safe place where we can carry on, do our best, and bring hope to others. 

​It's what we were made to do.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

PRAIRIE FARM STORIES OF SELLING CREAM TEACH US WHILE CELEBRATING THE PAST

In 2015, I wrote this "Read My Book" piece for Regina and Saskatoon newspapers to introduce readers to the fascinating anthology Cream Money: Stories of Prairie People. The book has been popular, due to its sharing of Prairie history and memories of the old days on the farm:

We can learn much from the people around us. Whether they are family, friends, acquaintances or people we have just met, there are stories to be told and lessons to be learned. This concept has been a driving force in my work as a freelance journalist for more than 30 years and has followed me into the field of book writing, editing and publishing.

In 2011, when I began working with the Saskatoon German Days Committee to help them create their book Egg Money: A Tribute to Saskatchewan Pioneer Women, I commented that they could also publish a book called Cream Money, since cream money was another important income source for farm women in days gone by. Of course, their Egg Money book is based on a statue of that name in downtown Saskatoon, so “Cream Money” did not make sense as a project for them.

So in 2014, my husband and publishing partner Al Driver and I decided to invite writers to send us their stories of selling cream and other interesting tales from past decades of farming on the Prairies. We collected 29 short stories and two poems from 30 Prairie writers, including myself.

My mother, Sabinka Staszewski, came to Canada from Poland in August 1929. She was two years old and made the 12-day voyage by ship with her mother, father and three siblings (ages eight years, six years, and six weeks - see photo below). After arrival in Halifax, Nova Scotia, they headed west by train to what would become their new home in Athabasca, Alberta, 95 miles north of Edmonton.


The family spent their first two winters living in a hole in the ground. Literally.

During the First World War, my grandfather had seen houses that were dug into the hills of Romania. There were no hills on the Alberta farmland he’d purchased, so he adapted this idea and created the first dugout house anyone had seen in that region. Their dugout house was four feet deep, eight feet wide, and 14 feet long. A small wood-burning cook stove and oven was used for cooking and warmth. Their large trunk was their only other piece of furniture until my grandfather constructed a long bench.


One of the first items my grandparents purchased in town to add to their meagre possessions was a young Holstein cow named Jenny, to supply the family with milk. Cow’s milk was an essential item on every farm in those days, especially for a growing family. 

Other parts of my family’s story include the fact that my father, also an immigrant, and his siblings were punished for speaking Ukrainian in school. Until they could afford their own cow, my grandmother helped milk a neighbour’s cows so she could bring a quart of milk home for her own family each day.

These are lessons that we can learn from and stories which need to be told to preserve not only our history but to teach the next generation. Other stories within the pages of Cream Money tell of hard work, of children and mice falling into milk cans, of saving cream money for essential items such as teeth repair, of sending the cream cans to town by train, and relishing the rich desserts made with farm-fresh cream.

On days when I am tempted to feel gloomy, I remember the story of the dugout house. Life in Canada is good. Let’s keep sharing those stories.

Cream Money: Stories of Prairie People is available from www.driverworks.ca, McNally Robinson Booksellers, Chapters, Indigo, Coles, and other select retailers. 

Here's a link to my blog about the fun book launch we had for the book!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

LIVING MY LIFE AFTER MY HUSBAND’S DEATH – CHERISHING MY “BIG A”

(Months ago, my bereavement counsellor suggested that I write about this particular time in my grief journey. "It will help others," she said. I am now ready to share this story.)

Nine months was when it happened. When most people, aside from my family, lost interest in me talking about my pain and sadness over my husband’s death.

Some of my closest friends and supporters even struggled to feign interest and patience as I cried or poured out my broken soul to them. I couldn’t blame them. Their lives had only been mildly affected by the death of this outgoing, fun-loving, witty, gentle giant of a man, while my life had been utterly broken. After all, I spent almost 42 years with this man as a major part of my daily life. They did not. And after almost nine months of caring for me, they had already said and done pretty much everything they could think of to try to help me through my grief. No, I couldn’t blame them.

To backtrack a bit, we learned In December 2015 that my husband, Al, was not going to survive the Stage IV colon cancer that hit him out of nowhere in August 2015. He died on January 4, 2016, a little more than two weeks after we were told his cancer could not be cured. His death was unexpected, shocking, and devastating for those of us who loved him.


His last wishes were that we, the people he loved, go on and live the best lives that we can. We are trying.

When it comes right down to it, no one can help you through ALL of the pieces of grieving the death of your spouse, the most important person in your life. Not your family. Not your friends. Not your pastor. Not your bereavement counsellor.

No one but you.

You have to do a big part of the work yourself. You have to figure out your new life without your beloved in it. And you have to try not to be offended or upset when people try to help you or, conversely, walk away or avoid you because they - and you - know they can't help.

At the end of September 2016, I realized that I had almost made it through nine months since my husband died. I was still sad, still broken. Although some people were trying hard not to suggest that I should “move on” or be more chipper, I saw that it was becoming more and more difficult for many people to visit with me and be dragged down into my puddle of grief.

So I decided to try to hold it in. To keep quieter. To talk less about him. To journal more and keep more of my pain, my thoughts, my sadness, and my loneliness to myself.

I had not been inside my own head so much in my life as I had been in those nine months. With no one to talk to every day, unless I picked up the phone or went away from my home-based business (which I used to share with my husband), my thoughts overwhelmed me, and I struggled to stay upright sometimes.

After he died, I had to rethink everything. Everything.

I soon chose not to come to many conclusions about my new life. I learned early that the best strategy when grieving such an excruciating loss is to take it easy. Take a deep breath. Take another breath. Keep going. Put one foot in front of the other. Get through this moment. Get through another moment. Don’t worry about the thoughts or advice or expectations of others. Do what you need to do in that moment. Rest. Cry. Yell. Grieve. But, most importantly, be gentle with yourself. (I wrote about this shortly after he passed away - What I've Learned About Grief) 

I still struggle at times to live out these helpful words.

What became very clear to me was that I had to work hard at staying positive. I needed to keep taking steps forward, as Al wanted for me and I wanted for myself.

I had moved my wedding rings to my middle finger a few months after Al died, but they were starting to look and feel wrong. I realized that they were making me sad, reminding me every day of what I had lost. Even if I was having a good moment or a good day, my wedding rings moved me toward sadness. It was not how I wanted to live the rest of my life.​

I tested a new look one weekend in September 2016 by not wearing my wedding rings. A few days later, on September 28, I took them off and did not put them back on.

In mid-September, I had heard a radio commercial for a local jewellery store that was closing at the end of the month because the owners were retiring. I had taken my wedding rings to that store for resizing a few years earlier, on the recommendation of Dionne Warner, the inspiring seven-time cancer survivor I wrote about in the Never Leave Your Wingman book. The owners knew Dionne and her amazing story, and the woman jeweller remembered and recognized me when I walked into the jewellery store two days before she and her husband retired from their business. I was impressed. 

I told her why I was there. “My husband passed away from cancer and I don't want to wear my wedding rings anymore,” I said. “I want something to remind me of him and our time together, but I don’t know what.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she replied. And she began to cry.

I was moved by her caring. We stood for a second, then wiped our tears and carried on. I asked about necklaces and she showed me options for melting down wedding bands and placing the diamond in the centre of the blob of gold. I laughed, and I imagined Al's laughter at that concept too.

“You wouldn’t be able to see the diamond from my ring if you did that!” I told her.


You see, Al and I became engaged in Calgary when we were impoverished students finishing up two years of journalism classes at SAIT. We went downtown one day in May 1975 to look for an engagement ring so we could get engaged before I left Alberta and moved to his home province of Saskatchewan to marry him and live happily ever after.


We found a ring that we liked and could afford. Since Al wasn’t getting paid from his part-time job as a pizza delivery guy for another few days, I wrote a cheque for the $30 down payment on my own engagement ring.​ That might seem silly to some, but it was reflective of our relationship – make the decision together, do what needs to be done, and move on.

Al paid me back after he got paid. No big deal.

So in September 2016, at the jewellery store in Regina, I decided that a blob of gold with my diamond set in a necklace was not for me. I also wanted to continue wearing other necklaces I own and I did not want to feel compelled to wear only one, so I decided to look to see what else was available.

The jeweller showed me some rings - starting at a very high price, of course, and then working down to a cost that was more to my liking. I asked to try on only two of the rings she suggested, but they were too bulky and ostentatious for me.

She then asked if I preferred gold or white gold. “My wedding rings are white gold, so that would be nice,” I told her.

She pulled out another ring from the display case and I knew this was my ring. It was beautiful. Perfect, in fact.

This new ring is a combination of white gold and gold, and I immediately loved the design. Very unique and very personal. It fit my story exactly.

I bought the ring and asked for suggestions on where to take it for resizing since they were closing within 48 hours and could not do that work themselves. I wished the woman good luck in her retirement, then walked out of the store, pleased with myself and especially pleased with my purchase.

I wanted to show this ring to all three of our adult children in person over the next few days, so I kept the undersized ring inside its jewellery box and I carried it with me. That evening, I talked with our youngest daughter, Dani, after our yoga class. I told her about my decisions to stop wearing my wedding rings and to buy another ring in memory of her dad but also in recognition of my new life without him.

Dani was thrilled. “It’s an arrow pointing to your future!” she said of the design. She was proud of me, doing something just for myself (since I am not a me-oriented person) and moving forward with my life.

Her reaction surprised me. I had not seen an arrow in the design.

​The next night, I shared the story with our eldest child - our son Dave - and his wife, Kelli. Dave was shocked and speechless for a couple of hours, but that was my fault. I carelessly started the conversation by holding up my bare left hand and saying, “Look! No rings!” While I was excited by this, knowing the happy ending to my little story, imagine the grief that our son had to process in those seconds of recognizing that the band symbolizing his parents’ 40-year-marriage was now gone. I quickly apologized to Dave. I did not realize how that would look to him.

After I told Dave and Kelli the whole story and showed them my new ring, they were pleased for me. Kelli saw the design as a linking of two things. Dave told me later, “I really like it, Mom. It’s really cool and I hope it brings you some comfort.”

That weekend, I visited our oldest daughter, Lisa, and her family. Lisa was very excited by my purchase and loved the ring. “It’s two souls coming together!” she exclaimed about the ring’s design.

Friends who saw my new ring also thought the same – they saw the design as two lives joining or a clasp holding two people together.
​But that’s not what I saw in my ring.

​When the jeweller first held it up to me, I immediately saw an “A”. ​For “Al”. My Al.

That’s why I bought the ring.

Weeks later, I laughed out loud when I remembered that my mom used to call my husband “Big A” – because he was almost a foot taller than everyone in my family and he was a lot larger than most of us too. His big personality matched his size as well. "Big A."

In my diary entry on September 30, 2016, the night that Dave told me he hoped the ring brings me comfort, I wrote:  “I know that it will. It already has and I’m not even wearing it yet. Al did not choose to get sick and die, but I have to choose to live and to live well. When I bought that ring, it was a big physical reminder of my decision to carry on without him here, but cherishing his memory and our love everyday when I look at my hand. He will always be with me, and now I will wear it on my finger as a visible symbol of our never-ending love.”

I cherish the many years I had with Al. I wish that everyone in the world would be blessed with such a great love. I miss him dearly every single moment of every single day, but I am so grateful that he was with me, that we were together.

I have been wearing my new "A" ring for eleven months now. For eleven months, I have felt love when I look at my left hand. Love instead of sadness.

​The never-ending love between me and my Big A.