Valentine's Day can bring great joy or immense sorrow. I've observed this from year to year. I suppose our emotions are in direct response to our perspective or life experiences. I've attended weddings on Valentine's Day and witnessed the pain of loss on Valentine's Day. You know as well as I that life is so very...well daily...isn't it? Moment upon moment days are built and life happens.
I love Valentine's Day. I do! Call me crazy if you want, but it makes my heart smile when I see the Valentine merchandise start to line the store shelves before the Christmas decor is adequately sold from the clearance rack. It's all such a commercial gimmick but still I enjoy seeing the cheery red and pink hearts and cupids adorned with fluffy roses and delicate little bows and arrows. In my mind the colors and whimsy of the decor bring a bright spark to the dreary winter days that linger long between Christmas and Spring. And besides all that, anyone can express love whether or not they have a "sweetheart". It doesn't hurt to buy flowers to decorate your table just because they are beautiful. They don't have to come from "someone special" in order to properly celebrate the day.
And so, in reality the love and caring shown on Valentine's Day can be expressed all year long between lovers, or family members or friends. I remember when our first child was born, on several occasions I ask my mother, "How will he know that we love him? He has come into the world without expectations. He has no option for existence but to totally trust us. How will he know we love him?" I'm sure this sounds quite silly, however as an emotional new mother I wrestled with this concept of a baby learning to comprehend this expression. Even today, I want my spouse and children and family and friends to know that I love them. It's important to me that the words we speak when we say goodbye are kind and loving. We never know when it will be our last word spoken. I want to love expressively. I don't want my children to wonder if I care.
This year as Valentine's Day approached, I grew sad that I couldn't do more for those I loved. Ggggrrr...everyone has the same 24 hours in their day, but there never seems to be enough time for what is demanding my attention and the little things that are important to me. So I try my best to make wise choices and be OK with that.
Our little girl was excited about her Valentine party at school on Tuesday. The night before we made heart shaped sugar cookies with glace' icing. With great anticipation, and just the right amount of consideration for which friend got which Valentine, the Valentines were all addressed well in advance...like Saturday night...well in advance. When we dropped her off at her classroom that morning, the teacher who was a substitute asked if I could come back later and help with the party since there would be no other parents available to help. I dashed off to work knowing that I had a limited amount of time before going back to the school to assist the teacher.
Upon my return to the school, as the children stood in line waiting for the party to begin, I noticed one little boy was standing with his face to the wall. Closer observation revealed that he was sobbing, not crying, but yes, absolutely sobbing. Since our family is friends with his family, I felt that it was OK for me to ask him what was wrong. As tears dripped from his cheeks, through his sobs he answered, "It's about my dad." My heart broke. I wanted to put my face against the wall and sob with him. Instead with the tips of my fingers I traced a line back and forth back and forth from shoulder blade to shoulder blade in hopes that some form of human contact would comfort him. When I could speak, I said, "Do you miss him more because it's Valentine's Day?" Through tears he shuddered, "Yes". I attempted to assure him of his Father's love. At an age much to young for any little boy to bear, he had been hit squarely with the reality of losing a Father in death. Within myself I contemplated the possibility that he might not have yet comprehended his Father's expression of love. You know the thing I said I worried about our firstborn son being able to comprehend? Again, I considered when does this knowledge of understanding begin? As the Valentine party started and progressed I saw him attempting to gain composure and go through the festive motions, but his heart wasn't in it. From my vantage point I realized that in spite of anything I might try to do or say to cheer him...the reality was...there was absolutely nothing I could do to change his heartache. There was nothing I could do to take this burden away. He had a deep Valentine's Day desire to feel the tangible love of his Father. He needed that feeling of knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was loved. Let me assure you this precious child is very loved. But how do you appropriately convey that to a heartbroken little boy in the midst of his overwhelming emotions?
My contemplative mind began to think through my own feelings of all the things I wanted to do to send expressions of love to those I cared about. With the life circumstances that I deal with every day, do I do enough? Really, do I? I'm sure I truly fall so so so very short. I thought about the gamut of emotions that other people feel on a day like this from despair and rejection to great joy and happiness. Valentine's Day, by the very nature of how our culture celebrates it stirs the desire as I saw in my little friend, the desire in each of us, to know the same thing...that beyond a shadow of a doubt...we are loved.
This past Tuesday, with the experiences that I was unexpectedly called to embrace, I was once again reminded of how important it is to me that I speak and write love to my spouse and my children. They are my first responsibility. I want it to be a language so clearly spoken to them that they never doubt or question it. When my time on earth is spent and I am gone, I want them to know I loved unquestionably and expressively without hesitation, beyond the shadow of a doubt.
I know that ultimate joy and peace is found in the loving arms of the embrace of Christ. Only HE can fill that void shape of Himself deep within our spirit. Each one of us will only find true love there. However, in my flawed and imperfect way, I want to do all I can to assure my children of my love.
It's a Valentine desire.
This blog post was written with full disclosure and approval from the child's mother.