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Valentine’s Day will be bittersweet for me this year. It marks the first anniversary, minus a few hours, of my dad’s death.
Growing up, we kids always got Valentines from our parents and sometimes those small heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. As soon as we moved out of the house, we sent Valentines to Mom and Dad, as did the grandchildren.
One year came a mysterious pink envelope addressed to Dad. Inside was a Valentine signed “Your Secret Admirer.” At least the existence of this admirer was no secret to Mom. She put the large card up on the kitchen counter where she displayed all our Valentine’s Day cards, including the one Dad always gave her. Of course, we liked to tease Dad about his secret admirer. “So, Dad, is there somebody at the office who has a crush on you? Is it some old high school flame?”
He harrumphed and Mom never said anything.
Last year I wasn’t paying much attention to the display of cards. Dad had been in hospice care for several weeks. I’d flown out to be with the family. For several days we gathered by his bedside. He’d sunk to that deep place between this world and the next where he was hardly present.
“Soon,” the hospice nurses said.
By Valentine’s Day he was so weak he didn’t even squeeze back when we held his hand.
“He doesn’t want to die on Valentine’s Day,” someone suggested. “He doesn’t want to ruin the holiday for you.”
Perhaps, but I remember that last day with him as one full of love. Friends came and went. Relatives arrived unexpectedly. Gifts of food and desserts were delivered. We waited, telling Dad we loved him, wondering how soon “soon” would be.
At one point I looked over to the bureau, where there was a display of cards from people sending their prayers. A new one had just arrived addressed to Dad, like the ones he’d gotten for over 20 years, from “Your Secret Admirer.”
That night for the last time I kissed him on the forehead just as he used to kiss me when I was a boy after I said my prayers.
I’m pretty sure his secret admirer was at his funeral that week along with many others. How wonderful to be reminded that you are loved. Even better that there’s a holiday devoted to doing that.
We celebrate Valentine’s Day here with a Day of Prayer on February 8 and invite you to send your prayer requests for your loved ones. You can submit your prayers at OurPrayer.org, where they will be prayed for by our staff and volunteers.
Your prayers are a perfect expression of love.