The first Valentines Day after my husband died
Valentines. They used to be lopsided hearts cut out of pink and red construction paper and messily glued on to a homemade card with paper doilies and glitter. Or little cards with Be Mine sayings attached to candy, placed into the sacks of each classmate and then eagerly scoured for the sweets and perhaps a special note while eating sugar cookie hearts and red kool-aide.
I can still remember the first Valentine I received from Larry. We had known each other for 3 weeks, but we were already very much in love. The card was very simple, the front covered with pictures of the little candy hearts with phrases on them. Right in the middle of the card was a yellow heart with the words 'Marry Me' on it. I remember wondering if he had noticed that yellow heart when he picked out the card and deciding he hadn't. Surely if Larry had seen those two words right there in the middle he would have picked a different Valentine for me.
Two weeks and three days later Larry asked me to marry to him. Every year after that Larry gave me roses and a Valentine card that expressed his love for me and I gave one to him. We always gave cards that expressed our thankfulness to God for bringing us together and our joyful anticipation of the many years ahead. We never anticipated that those years would be cut short by brain cancer. Sorting through his night stand I found every card I have ever given him. He's kept them all. I have every card that he has given to me as well, except that mine are scattered all over the house... showing up unexpectedly to brighten my day, or bring me to my knees with a tidal wave of emotion. Last year he couldn't get to a store so he made a card for me on the computer. That card means more to me than all of the rest put together.
This year I'm facing my first solo Valentines day in 15 years. I decided a few weeks ago that even though I would not be receiving a Valentine from my dear husband, I could still take one to him... sort of. I had a Valentine wreath made up and took it to the cemetery. It hasn't made this Hallmark holiday any easier to deal with emotionally though. This was not a day that I was expecting to bring this much pain. To be honest, I hadn't even thought of Valentine's Day in the list of dreaded firsts. I'd skipped right over it.
Aisles of cards, heart shaped cookies and cakes, bouquets of roses, TV ads featuring loving couples exchanging cards and beautiful gifts of sparkling jewelry... Everywhere I look I see reminders that I am once again on the outside looking in. I'm no longer the unpopular girl at school who didn't receive the special valentine or the special note, but I'm no longer part of "we" either. I can't bring myself to stay away from the forest of red and pink cards. They are a magnetic force drawing me to torture myself in reading their expressions of love for the man who is no longer here to read them from me, no longer here to read them to me. Words woven together on printed cardstock running together in the blur caused by my tears.
This holiday is for children and couples. Being torn out of my status as a wife - half of "we" - makes this even more difficult to cope with. This was not my choice. Every reminder that I no longer qualify for couples only events brings back the loneliness of my widowhood. No Sweetheart Dance for me, no card with the tender words of love from the man that I love and miss so much that I ache with it.
Valentine's Day may seem trivial as holidays go. A day made up for sole purpose of spending money. I disagree. The money isn't the purpose of Valentine's Day. What is important about Valentine's Day is that you are intentional about taking the time, finding a meaningful way to communicate to the most important person in your life.... the other half of your we... that you love them, that you love being married to them. Everyday should be Valentine's Day.