This year is filled with milestone celebrations for our family. We recently celebrated my Mom’s 70th birthday milestone and in just a few weeks, we’ll commemorate the anniversary of my grandparents’ passing.
I know it might seem kind of weird to talk about a subject like that on Valentine’s Day.
Especially, since Valentine’s Day is supposed to be marked with love, laughter, candy, gifts, and extra special meals.
I also know those things aren’t always a reality for everyone.
So, I thought I would take today to share how one of my biggest Valentine’s Day regrets became my motivation to live a “love is action” life.
If you’re grieving a loved one or feel tender in any way today, please feel free to skip this post or save it for another day.
For nearly every year of my adult life, in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, I would shop for my grandparents’ Valentine’s Day gifts.
They were never anything big or extravagant.
Mostly just a box of sweets and a thoughtful card.
My grandparents were both part of the Greatest Generation. So, growing up we knew cards and candy were a big deal to them because sweets were reserved for special occasions.
Getting cards in the mail helped them to feel more connected and the sweets were a gentle reminder they had come a long way since The Great Depression.
Despite having five kids and lots of grandkids, I never wanted them to feel forgotten. So, every year I made sure my grandparents had a little something extra.
Unfortunately, the year they passed was a particularly heavy one.
We had just closed all our antique booths which was a significant part of my time and income. I was trying to decide if I wanted to continue working as a counselor for at-risk kids, go back to working with spinal cord injury patients at a local rehabilitation hospital, or if I wanted to blaze a new trail and start blogging full time.
The stakes seemed significantly high, and my brain was cluttered with decisions I just didn’t want to make.
As Valentine’s Day drew near, I went to the store to pick up their boxes of sweets and cards.
I bought things I knew they would love.
Then I made a Valentine’s Day mistake, I will forever regret.
I never mailed any of it.
Instead, I allowed one day to roll into another and before I knew it, weeks had gone by.
Trying to salvage things, I convinced myself I could bring the sweets to our annual family reunion, an event held every March.
But we never made it to the family reunion because my grandparents both died less than a month after Valentine’s Day.
On the morning of my grandfather’s funeral, (the same grandfather that inspired our Little Sparkle Holiday Home Tour) and the afternoon of my grandmother’s (we buried them on the same day), I was wracked with guilt over how I had mishandled Valentine’s Day.
But I was also bound and determined to show up for my grandmother one last time the only way I knew how.
I asked my cousins to share their favorite stories, pearls of wisdom, or loving words they would use to describe my grandmother.
Then I took those gifts of inspiration to write and deliver the eulogy on behalf of myself and my cousins.
As my Dad helped me put on my winter coat that day, he quietly pulled me aside. “You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to,” he said, “Everyone will understand. There is no shame in changing your mind or sitting this one out.”
“I’m ready,” I replied as I slowly slid into the car.
Despite having rehearsed at least a hundred times, I was not prepared for what I saw when I stepped up to the podium that day.
Hundreds of people had filled the small country church.
People were in the pews, the vestibule, the Sunday School rooms, the hallways and even standing outside.
Without a doubt, it was a sight to behold, and one I hope I never forget.
It wasn’t until I saw those hundreds of people gathered together, that I realized each person represented an act of love.
For they had chosen to spend an entire day in the freezing cold supporting our grieving family. Along the way, they shared stories of cakes being brought to celebrate special occasions, casseroles being delivered when a new baby was born, garden vegetables left in a basket on the front porch, yard and housework being done when a neighbor was down and out, prayers offered up for sick and hurting loved ones, words of encouragement at just the right time, a warm meal, a tender hug, an infectious laugh, and a kind shoulder to lean on.
Love in action at its finest.
A few weeks after my grandparent’s funerals we were going through my grandmother’s house to prepare her estate.
Each tasked with a room and a set of instructions, I decided to start with my grandmother’s big dresser.
Much to my bittersweet surprise, tucked in one of the drawers was nearly every Valentine’s Day card I had ever sent her, all tied together with a small red ribbon and bow.
Confirmation, small acts of love and kindness truly mean more than we will ever know.
My grandparents have been gone a few years now but the memory of what was to be our last Valentine’s Day still haunts me at times.
I’ve yet to be able to recount this story a single time without getting emotional or teary.
I know they’ve forgiven me though.
And in due season, I’ll be able to forgive myself as well. I know one mistake doesn’t take away from the thousands of memories we made together.
I used to be one of those people who thought I had plenty of time.
But every February when the weight of the holidays and the demands of the New Year threaten to swallow me up, I’m tenderly reminded we only have today.
So do what you can to make each day brighter, extend grace even when you don’t feel like it, go the extra mile whether it’s convenient or not, accept an apology the first time, give each other the benefit of the doubt, encourage each other every chance you get, appreciate one another, don’t wait for a special occasion to eat off the good china, and be fully present when you show up each and every time you show up.
For the moments that seem completely ordinary are the same moments coming together to create the story of your life.
Don’t wait to celebrate those moments and each other along the way.
With love this Valentine’s Day,