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Divorce & Annulments

I trudged up the steep dirt trail, my legs burning from the effort. It was the first week of autumn and a mild breeze blew occasionally across the path, drying my sweat.

Garcia Trail is a jagged course of switchbacks that ascends a mile skyward to a point overlooking my small California town and its surrounding communities. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Pasadena almost 13 miles to the west. The last time I’d tackled this trail was with my wife. Today I was alone, except for a few hikers who passed me on their way back down. We nodded our hellos and continued on our separate paths.

After about 45 minutes, I finally reached the top of the trail and sat down to catch my breath. Nearby, two crude wooden beams stood nailed together in the shape of a cross, towering ten feet toward the sky. Students from nearby Azusa Pacific University had planted the cross here years ago. At its base was a metal box with a lid that swung open to reveal a weathered green spiral-bound notebook. Climbers could jot down their names, proving they were here, and scribble prayer requests for others who might find the notebook after them.

I walked over to the cross and pulled a trowel from my Camelback. Then I knelt down and slammed the spade into the hard earth. I dug through the dirt and rocks, scooping out a hole. Then I reached in my pocket and withdrew my wedding ring.

I’d heard a range of opinions on what to do with my ring after my divorce. Some said I should pawn it for cash. Others suggested dropping it in a church’s offertory box as a gift. I imagined going to Malibu, where my ex and I made out on the beach one night, and hurling the ring into the surf. But somehow none of these options seemed right.

Despite the fact that it had collapsed, I still saw my marriage as sacred and this bright little band represented it. So I decided to leave it up here at the Garcia Trail summit, at the foot of the cross, a place of death, but also new life.

I set the ring in the ground and covered it with dirt, patted down the loose soil, then stood to my feet next to the cross. I gazed out at the valley below.

The clutter of towns glimmered in the distance, the places where my marriage had lived and died. Eight years ago, my ex and I had met in hope and excitement. Now here I was, burying my wedding band in the dirt.

I thought of how sad it is that things which start with such joy and promise can end so disastrously. I realized that this day, two years after my marriage fractured, I still had no solid answers for why things ended up the way they did. Answers would come, emerging as they do in bits and pieces from the crush of years ahead.

But at this point, I was sure of one thing: I had survived. Though I would still have bad days and tears left to shed, the worst was over. I was going to make it.

All these thoughts swirled in my head as the breeze swept around me. It was peaceful up here. Tranquil. The wind smelled of dirt and sage. I had done what I came to do. I had buried the dead. I took one last look at the patchwork of towns below, then I turned around and made my way down the trail, back into the land of the living.

 

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14 Comments

  1. Nicolas-1095366 May 29, 2014

    Dear Chris,

    Thank you for sharing your story and your pain. I find myself 9 months into a divorce after 20 years and I have many questions too as to how my marriage died. What I know is that I played my role in its death and I have taken responsibility for that. I have also asked forgiveness from my ex-wife and from God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
    What I have bit done is find a resting place for my wedding ring. I even tried it on the other day and wore it around the apartment.
    I wish you well in your healing process and again thank you for your words of healing.
    God Bless You,

    Nic

  2. Michael-410923 May 29, 2014

    Nice. ‘…though I would still have bad days….I had buried the dead….made my way [to] the land of the living’. Great prose, capturing the ashes that life sometimes brings.

  3. Josh-1025422 May 29, 2014

    Thanks for sharing your story and letting go of your bad marriage at the end and bad ju-ju that the ring represented but good for your Chi (a.k.a. as your spirit). Take care of yourself and stay cool, Chris!!

    Josh

  4. Sandra-963593 May 30, 2014

    A very nice and moving piece. . . a fitting resting place for the symbol of marriage. I also appreciate how much being married meant to you. We women sometimes feel that we’re the only ones who care when a relationship ends. Not true, of course. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Laura-997821 May 31, 2014

    Really a very nice article. I felt as though I was feeling all of your emotions. I had kept my wedding rings thinking my sons or my daughter might want them when they married. All four of them said “thanks, mom; but, no”. I think I understand. Although I was the one that had to leave due to a very long and abusive marriage; it was still an ache and a “why” through years of tears and bad relationships afterwards. If it hadn’t been for my children’s pleading to leave, I would have probably still been in it – dead or alive – but it still makes me, to this day, (and it has been more than 22 years ago) ask “why would he do that to the woman that bore his children, to his own children, to the family that loved him and stuck by him through all the military family stress, job losses, operations…?” I am not asking for answers anymore…I just simply have formed a habit now, while lying alone in the dark…”why?”

    • Elizabeth-498995 June 4, 2014

      Laura, to me my ring is a symbol of my failed marriage. I would never want to give my ring to my children as a reminder of their parents broken marriage.

      My marriage was also very abusive. Mine was 27 plus 5 years of dating. If I ask God one more time Why? to all of the questions I have I think I will go mad!

      I am going on 10 years since he left. i still am on a journey to find healing and peace and I think I will until the very end of my life. But I am learning to thrive. Am so tired of just surviving.

  6. Meg-920823 May 31, 2014

    Thank you for writing this. I haven’t thought about what to do with the ring, really. I don’t know why. It is stuffed away in a box but you have given me food for thought. Maybe I will give it to the Tribunal for lock up with the annulment documents.

  7. Teresa-1092129 May 31, 2014

    Thank you for writing such a beautiful description of what many go through. I have no idea where my wedding ring is; honestly it had no value for me the day the courts issued the divorce papers. The symbolism of having a burial for my marriage is important to me. It acknowledges I am willing to start moving on.

  8. Elaine-438797 June 2, 2014

    Excellent, well written piece. I felt your pain. I still have my ring but am pragmatic about it. Either I will cash it in or just have it remade, taking off the little diamonds and put onto another ring. I don’t know. Yes, it hurts deeply to think how happy you are initially and then slowly it fades, addictions set in, for which I got tired of living with.
    I know I’m better off now than before, even with some daily struggles. Thanks for writing.

  9. Diego-959656 June 3, 2014

    After 26 years of being “married” (it was declared null) with her going since the beginning through many manic-depressive episodes, the ring wouldn’t come out of my finger. It was OK, because I was going through the annulment process and I was married until the Church concluded I wasn’t. It is strange, but one day I succeeded and it came off, so I could read one last time in the inside her name and the date of the wedding. For some reason I lost it that day (and never found it), so I went to Sears and bought one to remind myself and our eight children that the bond is there.
    When the decision of the Tribunal came, I took it off and is still inside a drawer. The bond was NOT in the first or the second ring; if there was a bond, it was in Heaven and the ring was there to remind us and everybody else about it…
    I have a close friend whose wife left him for another man after many years of marriage. No annulment could be requested or claimed. Many years have passed and he still has his ring on, to remind himself and everybody around the what God has bound, man can’t break it…

  10. Greg-1042125 June 3, 2014

    Inspiring. God bless Chris!

  11. Nancy-1006306 June 3, 2014

    Dear Chris,
    Thank you so much for sharing your journey.
    Blessings,
    Nancy

  12. Elizabeth-498995 June 4, 2014

    I tried to make my marriage work. The problem was that he is an alcoholic and was not interested in meeting my efforts even a bit of the way. it is 10 years since he left and I am still healing from his emotional and verbal abuse. Many people don’t realize that this verbal abuse is a form of domestic abuse. They have a name for people who suffer from it, complex post traumatic stress syndrome.

    I decided to sell my ring and donate the money to a domestic abuse shelter in my area. The joke of it was that I was paid a fraction of what it is worth.

  13. Leo-1097313 July 1, 2014

    Chris, great story, I could feel the rocks crunching beneath my soles as that trowel met resistance with every strike. Thank you for your experience.
    I wore my wedding ring for 2 years of separation and I took it off after the divorce.
    I sold my ring without negotiation; I explained to the buyer this sale was symbolic.
    Apparently, this gesture is common.

    Cor ad cor loquitur, Brother
    Leo

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