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Reflections on love and grief

I’ll be honest. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Valentine’s Day. Maybe it stems from junior high and high school when I was the chubby girl who never really had a valentine.

And maybe it stems from my years as an elementary teacher and later principal, when Valentine’s Day meant a sugar frenzy that left kids bouncing off the walls.

But I was given the world’s best Valentine’s Day gift on the day before Valentine’s Day 29 years ago. My beautiful, brilliant, blue-eyed boy was born. He transformed Valentine’s Day into a day of joy simply because of who he is. I am eternally grateful to him for so many things: his boundless enthusiasm, his creativity and genuine love for his family and friends. He’s always looked at Valentine’s Day (and every holiday) the way he looks at life; with joy and excitement.

And I was given the gift of a husband who cherishes me every single day, not just on Valentine’s Day. He has held me during some of my darkest moments, respected and encouraged my dreams, laughed with me, cried with me, and always lets me be me.

So, things got a lot better for my view of Valentine’s Day…

Until last year. My tenacious, beautiful, incredible mother passed away on Valentine’s Day. Her death left an enormous hole in my heart. I honestly spent months not knowing how I could be the person that I am without her. She was the first person whom I loved, and she loved all of us fiercely.

Author Franchesca Cox said, “Grief only exists where love lived first.” Grief is love's unwillingness to give up. It is the reminder that you can always love someone in their eternal absence. It’s trusting the Universe and looking for signs of love - because they are everywhere. My mom truly was a solid example of love, and it is only fitting that she would have passed on Valentine’s Day, the day we celebrate love.

I witnessed her love last night as I watched my older brother shovel a path through the snow to Mom’s grave. We huddled together in the pouring rain - her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, placing flowers on her grave and honoring her. Later, we raised a glass of Pinot Grigio and toasted the woman who taught us so much about love. We belted out the lyrics to Delta Dawn, complete with a ukulele intro from her granddaughter. As we repeated the chorus over and over again, I knew that she was with us, laughing, sipping her wine and doing her funny little dance to her favorite song.

We laughed, we cried, we hugged and found healing in the love of this beautiful family of ours. And I was given hope that I’ll get back to loving Valentine’s Day again… someday.

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