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I originally wrote this on my first Valentine’s Day as a widow. The sentiments haven’t really changed even though I’m now facing my 7th Valentine’s Day as a widow.

Valentines. They used to be lopsided hearts cut out of pink and red construction paper messily glued on to a homemade card with paper doilies and glitter. Or little cards with Be Mine sayings attached to candy, placed into the sacks of each classmate and then eagerly scoured for the sweets and perhaps a special note while eating sugar cookie hearts and drinking red Kool-aid.

I can still remember the first Valentine I received from Larry. We had known each other for only 3 weeks but we were already very much in love. The card was very simple. The front was covered with pictures of the little candy hearts with phrases on them. Right in the middle of the card was a yellow heart with the words, ‘Marry Me’ on it. Two weeks and three days later Larry invited me to marry him. He’d actually created an invitation asking me to marry him. You see, he’d asked me why I hadn’t moved from Colorado to Michigan yet and I told him that it was because I had not been invited. He always picked up on little comments like that and stored them for future surprises. Every year after that, Larry would give me roses and a Valentine card that expressed his love for me and I would give one to him. We always gave each other cards that expressed our thankfulness to God for bringing us together and our joyful anticipation of the many years ahead. We never anticipated that those years would be cut short by brain cancer.

This year I’m facing my first solo Valentine’s Day in 15 years. I decided a few weeks ago that even though I would not be receiving a Valentine from my dear husband I could still take one to him. Sort of. I had a Valentine wreath made and took it to the cemetery. It hasn’t made this Hallmark holiday any easier to deal with emotionally though. This was not a day that I was expecting to bring this much pain. To be honest, I hadn’t even thought of Valentine’s Day in the list of dreaded firsts. I’d skipped right over it.

Aisles of cards, heart shaped cookies and cakes, bouquets of roses, TV ads featuring loving couples exchanging cards and beautiful gifts of sparkling jewelry – everywhere I look I see reminders that I am once again on the outside looking in. I’m no long the unpopular girl at school who didn’t receive the special valentine or the special note, but I’m no longer part of a “we” either.

This holiday is for children and couples. Being torn out of my status as wife – half of “we” – makes this even more difficult to cope. This was not my choice. Every reminder that I no longer qualify for couples only events brings back the loneliness of my widowhood. No Sweetheart Dance for me, no card with the tender words of love from the man that I love and miss so much that I ache with it.

Valentine’s Day may seem trivial as holidays go. A day made up for the sole purpose of spending money. I disagree. The money isn’t the purpose of Valentine’s Day. What is important about Valentine’s Day is that you are intentional about taking the time, finding a meaningful way to communicate to the most important person in your life, the other half of your “we,” that you love them, that you love being married to them or just love having them in your life. Everyday should be Valentine’s Day.

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Shelley Brandon

My bio is rather complex and like most people's starts at birth, or maybe before. I was adopted as an infant by very special and very loving parents. Pretty normal and average childhood with two younger brothers. Married at 22, motherhood at 25, divorced single parent at 29. Blessed at 31 with a new chance at love and the family I'd always wanted. Eight months later two of my sons lost their mother to pneumonia. Our blended family was tossed by the waves of grief from the beginning. The waves became a tsunami when my wonderful husband died 14 years later. Grief has been my shadow for nearly 20 years now, but life is still good when you're standing in the light.

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