Valentine’s Day has not held any good memories for me in a long, long time. I am a romantic at heart, and would love nothing more than to prepare a special dinner, set a lovely table with flowers and candles, and celebrate a good marriage. However, life is what it is, and I tend to overlook Valentine’s Day, now that my children are grown up and I am no longer responsible for making their holiday special.
Valentine’s Day 2010 & 2011 were a revelation of sorts for me. As one who has not been “cherished” since childhood, I now realize that to be cherished is a great gift, and one that lasts beyond your worldly life. After my sister’s death in July of 2009, I worried about my brother-in-law as their 20th wedding anniversary approached in October. How sad, I thought, to be faced with this milestone celebration such a short time after losing her. He told me that they had already celebrated together on the Valentine’s Day before she died, when they knew she would probably not live until October. He said that Valentine’s Day was terribly special to them, because that was when he had proposed to her, and that this celebration had been more significant to him than the actual anniversary. I have had several conversations with my brother-in-law about their marriage, and his loss. He has eloquently described to me his feelings for her and the pleasure and contentment they found in their marriage. It somehow eases my sorrow to know how much she was cherished.
This Valentine’s Day, the first after the death of my mother-in-law, provided me with yet another example of cherishing. While the holidays were especially difficult for my father-in-law, I think Valentine’s Day was the most heartbreaking of all. My father-in-law is a man with a stoicism inherited from his German ancestors. However, since my mother-in-law’s death, his sorrow has been etched on his face. I discovered that he had proposed to my mother-in-law on Valentine’s Day. This year, he made his way through deep snow to her grave to place a single red rose in memory of this special day. Although surrounded by family, he was feeling her loss very deeply.
I remember watching them at their Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary Party in 1999 – a lovely occasion. As they danced together, there was a glow about them, as if it was once again the day of their marriage. The long years of sharing and cherishing each other had given a depth to their love that was a joy to behold.
Both my brother-in-law and my father-in-law lovingly and gently cared for these women they loved as illness overtook them, and death drew near. It was a tough job, which wore them both down – physically and emotionally – but they stayed true to their promises and their wives died in their own homes, surrounded with love and security. It would have been so much easier to place them in a nursing home or hospital, but these men did not take the easy road, because they cherished these women.
Now, they are both dealing with the anguish and loneliness of their losses. The memories are bittersweet, and sometimes the pain must seem too much to bear. I do hope they realize, though, the great gift they gave their wives – to be cherished is much more than many of us can expect from life. I am thankful that these two women I loved so much were cherished by the men in their lives.