The Valentines That Changed Everything…
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,
This story has brought a tear or two to my eyes this morning. I think we are all guilty of this at some point in our lives, but your grandparents sound so wonderful, they would be the first to say its ok, life gets in the way sometimes, and like you say yourself, they had so many wonderful memories all tied up in a nice bow. Don’t keep blaming yourself for something you can’t change, its not fair to you or to them, they will have long forgiven you, if they ever really needed to. Hope you can enjoy whatever Valentines day celebrations you have, just send a kiss to heaven.xx
Such sweet and thoughtful words, Janette, thank you. I really appreciate them and needed to hear every single one too. Valentine’s Day can definitely be bittersweet sometimes but I’m bound and determined to use all the days I have left celebrating each one as if were Valentine’s Day in their honor and that gives me peace because I know they would approve. Sending you hugs and hoping your Valentine’s Day was a special one, CoCo
you soooo touched my heart with this, and reminded me that it’s the little things that truly mean so much. thank you for this. happy day!!
You are so welcome, Mary. There have been many times when I thought something was either too simple or not enough. But seeing all those Valentine cards together that day made me realize it doesn’t have to be big or extravagant to be impactful. Even the smallest acts of kindness can mean the world. I hope your Valentine’s Day was a special one and your week is richly blessed, CoCo
Wonderful blog! Thank you for sharing. I needed that reminder today.
You are more than welcome, sweet friend. I promise I need reminders like these all the time myself. Sending you lots of love and hugs for a very special week, CoCo
Thank you for this valuable reminder!❤️
You are so welcome, Joan. I need reminders like these all the time. I hope your Valentine’s Day and your week is filled with all good things, CoCo
Thank you for sharing your special and personal story. Knowing that your grandmother had saved your Valentine’s Day cards must have warmed your heart. Such an important lesson for all of us to realize we can bring joy to people by showing them that they are special to us and we are thinking about them. A gift of our time is so precious and meaningful.
I couldn’t agree with you more, Carol-Dee, thank you so much for your kind words. I never realized how much the cards meant to her until I saw how she had saved them all and kept them together. It was such a sweet reminder that what might seem small to us means more than we will ever know to someone else. Sending you hugs for a happy week. I hope your Valentine’s Day was filled with all good things, CoCo
Lovely and so sweet and so true!!
Thank you, Eileen! Sometimes the smallest reminders or acts of kindness wind up to the be biggest gifts. Hope your Valentine’s Day was a special one, CoCo
What a lovely and touching reminder of how precious each day together is. Little acts and words of love really do matter. Thanks!
Wishing you a wonderful day.
Thank you so much, Jan, I really appreciate your kind words. They really do mean everything! Hope you felt loved and appreciated all day, CoCo
I’m sitting with tears steaming down my face. What a beautiful and well written reminder. Thanks so much! 💕💕
You are so welcome, I feel teary every time I think about it too. It was definitely a hard lesson to learn but one I’ve never forgotten. I know they’re right here with me every day but especially on Valentine’s Day quietly cheering on the big wins and the little ones too. Hope your day was a special one, CoCo
Happy Valentine’s Day CoCo! Wise words. Love the pictures.❤
Thank you, Vee! Sending you lots of hugs and hoping you felt loved all day! Happy Valentine’s Day, CoCo
That really is so sweet that she saved all of the cards you had mailed over the years. It’s such a great reminder that expressing love to others is always one of the very best ways we can use our time.
It really was, Heidi! I had no idea she was even saving them because she was such a practical, no-fuss kind of lady so it caught me off guard but in the best possible way. It just goes not show you small acts of kindness no matter how big or small mean so much. Sending you hugs and hoping your Valentine’s Day was a special one, CoCo
A beautiful tribute to your grandparents. They forgive you and watch over you.
In time you have to forgive yourself. They’d want that.
They would, Cindy! I’m definitely getting there by using what happened as motivation to live a life that helps to honor their legacy. Not only on Valentine’s Day but every day. Sending you hugs and hoping your day was a special one, CoCo
You are such a gifted writer. This story has touched my heart. I am currently in a difficult season and I know full well that we are not guaranteed tomorrow. Make the most of each day – that is my goal and I fail many times. Thanks again, for sharing your heart CoCo. Thanks for sharing your story and one of your sweet grandparents. They know you shared this with others 🥰
You are so sweet to say that, Cindy, thank you. Each day I sit down to write, my only prayer is to be a vessel that offers hope and encouragement. I’m so sorry you’re going through a difficult time. I’ll definitely be lifting you up in prayer in the days and the weeks to come. Making the most of each day is not always easy. Especially, when there are a lot of demands on your time, talents, or resources. While it might feel like you’ve “failed”, every day you get up and share who you were created to be through sweet smiles, big hugs, encouraging words, grace in the midst of chaos, your painting, photography, slowing down to glorify Him, offering advice or sharing a meal is a success. Some of your greatest lessons will come in your most difficult seasons and you’ll be able to pass those lessons along to others. Hold your head up high, sweet friend, even in the darkest days you’re still amazing, CoCo
This post touched my heart so much and I know my readers will be blessed with it so I am sharing linking back to it in my All Things Vintage weekly round-up tomorrow. 🙂 Have a great weekend CoCo and thank you so much for your reply to my earlier comment!
That is so sweet of you, Cindy, thank you so much. I really appreciate it! The lessons I learned from my grandparents’ homegoing journey were not easy lessons to learn. But they’re lessons I continue to use each and every day and I’m thankful for the opportunity to pass them along. Sending you lots of hugs and thank yous, CoCo