When I was a little girl, giving and receiving Valentine’s Day cards was what February 14th was all about. What great fun we had opening our pile of brightly cartooned cards, eating candy hearts with sweet sayings. I can still remember the childish nervousness I felt as I slipped my own tiny cards into my friends’ cubbies at school.
As I got older, Valentine’s Day was a mixed bag, full of excitement and anticipation on the Valentine’s Days when I had a sweetheart and, quite frankly, somewhat depressing in the years I didn’t. In those years it appeared that everyone was coupled (except me) and I felt a heightened awareness of my single status.
Then, last year, my sister died on Valentine’s Day. Since that day, I haven’t been able to think about Valentine’s Day without thinking about her, along with a few of my close friends who, like my sister, got sick or had an accident and left this world much too soon.
There is so much emphasis placed on the romance of this one day, Valentine’s Day—red hearts, chocolate, flowers, candlelit dinners, looking deeply into your lover’s eyes, kisses and caresses. And what’s not to love about all of that? Whereas sitting beside your beloved as they lie in a hospital bed, bald from chemo, throwing up, in pain, scared, sad, angry, even dying? Not what usually comes to mind.
On this Valentine’s Day, I am reminded how easy it is to love someone at their very best, their finest dressed, when they are their most romantic, sexy self. Yet in those moments when someone we love is at their worst, their sickest, their most depressed, revealing parts of themselves that rarely see the light of day—the moments when loving is the hardest—those are the moments where the heart of love can be found.
In memory of my sister, Caren: April 15, 1962-February 14, 2013
Take the road less traveled, Beth