This is the day Hallmark lives for. I used to live for Hallmark until Todd ruined it for me. Now I find myself rewriting bad dialogue in my head when the movies are playing out in front of me. Don’t get me wrong. I still watch. Just not as often or as freely. Now instead of watching with pure, unadulterated joy, it’s like sitting through a movie next to a person with bad gas. It taints the experience, for sure.
My first Valentine’s Day with Todd was altered by the death of my beloved grandmother in Tallahassee. We had plans to go up together the very weekend she died. We were in college in Tampa. She was in the hospital in Tallahassee. She was supposed to recover. They said she would recover. But she had a vain streak and didn’t want people seeing her not looking her best. She didn’t like the idea of me bringing Todd to meet her in the hospital. I was going to anyway. And so she died. By the Transitive Property in math (If a=b and b=c then a=c), I killed my grandmother.
But she did go out on her own terms. And she died 3 days before we could see her not looking her best.
So instead of us driving up for Todd to meet my very sweet grandmother, I climbed into the backseat of a Lincoln Towncar with my mom’s parents and drove to Tallahassee for the funeral. I was sad. I was terribly unprepared to let her go, because she was always my favorite. She was my beach grandmother. The grandmother that scolded my parents for cutting my long curls into an afro and for making me bail boats in lightning storms. The grandmother who thought bushy eyebrows were the bomb and was probably the reason I didn’t realize mine needed work until the year 2000. The grandmother who needed help crossing the creek in her “clamdiggers” as she slowly made her way down the beach to see her best friend, Aunt Catherine. The grandmother with the short, fat Christmas trees and the same old ornaments–some of them made of cardboard. The grandmother with a jar of full sized candy bars in her kitchen and cold glass-bottled cokes in her fridge. The grandmother whose snores were the stuff of nightmares, but who taught me to sleep through anything.
The grandmother who loved unconditionally and who always had time.
I think about her often. I even found her wallet and social security card in a box in my attic recently. I think about how much she would have loved her great-grandchildren. She would have reveled in the liveliness that trails behind her legacy. She would have adored that the second cousins know each other and get together when we can.
She would have loved my girls. I grew up always wanting a sister. Doesn’t every girl want a sister? I didn’t get that growing up, but I got the second best thing to it. I got to bring sisters into the world and watch them walk the occasionally dark path together, neither one willing to let the other stumble. Even though Lucy often says to me in exasperation, “Jenna is just the WORST person ever,” and at the time she truly means that. And even though Jenna has almost always done something the moment before that earns her that title, even then the love is undeniable. Two weeks ago, on the way home from school, Jenna looked at me and said, “I was thinking about Lucy today and I thought, I love her. I love her.” Right then and there, I got the sister I never had.
They fight. They give each other the stink eye. They each complain about the other. But they love. And I know that long after I’m gone, they’ll have each other. Not just on Hallmark days, but every day.
As much as I’d like life to play out like it does in Hallmark productions, it isn’t magical moments and bad dialogue. It isn’t throwing confetti when life is easy. Life is learning to love the sister who has injured you or the friend who just threw you under the bus or the spouse who doesn’t care anymore (general terms, people. Not my story). Love is action. And anyone can offer it, no matter the circumstance.
Maybe your Valentine’s Day included a death in the family and isn’t the holiday you envisioned. Maybe you don’t have a partner or a sister or a best friend. There’s always hope. There’s always someone who needs something. And in case you need a little extra help, Paul left a very simple, very bright formula to light the dark spaces of our lives.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:4-8)
Even when someone is just the worst person ever.
Even then. Maybe especially then.
Happy Valentine’s Day.