“Mommy, we have two kinds of hearts. One that is filled with love and the other one that keeps us alive.” — M, age 5
This will be my fifth Valentine’s Day without my husband. When he died, I was left completely shattered and heartbroken. The life I knew and loved disappeared in a moment. One minute I had a very alive and vibrant husband, and the next, he was gone. Without any warning, the unimaginable had happened — and the one person I needed to help me survive the loss was no longer here to hold my hand and tell me everything would be OK.
It has taken me years to feel like myself and to be OK with the person I have become since my husband’s death. The loss has been profound. I will miss him and love him forever.
We loved each other just as we were, and because of that love, we continued to grow both individually and as a couple. During our 10 years together we shared countless moments of gratitude that we had found each other and for the life we were creating. Our love existed in the simple, everyday moments — sharing stories, inside jokes, lifting each other up on the tough days, forgiving each other, cheering each other on. It was in the way we loved our son, continuously in awe of the beautiful gift we had received.
In my 20s, Valentine’s Day seemed to shine a bright spotlight on my singleness. At that time it was hard to see it as anything other than a holiday for couples, highlighting something I did not have. Then, as the story goes, in my 30s I met and married my husband, and Valentine’s Day became, well, less of a thing. No pressure, no rules.
My husband coached high school hockey in the winter and was often booked on Valentine’s Day, so our tradition was to pick a different day to cook a new recipe together. He loved finding the perfect greeting card for any occasion and was known for his heartfelt notes, in his perfect penmanship, filled with loving, encouraging words and expressions of gratitude.
Now I’m well into my 40s, and Valentine’s Day — as a solo parent — is again evolving into something else.
Valentine’s Day can be a good time to pause, reflect, and think about where and how my love shows up each day. How am I showing up in this life I have been given? How am I living out my love for my son, family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues? What am I teaching my son about love? How am I being loving and caring to myself? Am I treating myself the way my husband did? How am I carrying my husband’s love forward? How am I being kind and compassionate to strangers?
My son and I have our winter tree displayed — aka, a tree branch painted white that stands in our dining room, decorated with white lights and hearts — and strings of hearts hang on our mantle. My son looks forward to Valentine’s Day. This year he wants to make homemade Valentines to give to his classmates. I am sure I will make some pink pancakes and give extra hugs and kisses to my son.
Our loving hearts are vast, limitless spaces with the ability to keep expanding. I want my son to know that his dad’s love is always with him. That my love for him — as a solo parent or not, on Valentine’s Day or not — is constant. My husband’s love for me did not die with him. Love never dies. I love my husband just as much today as when he was alive. I know he is proud of us. When I think of him in my mind, he is showing his beautiful smile with his loving arms wrapped around us, holding us tight, telling us how much he loves us — today and always.