Valentine’s Day was a few days ago. Although my Hubby always makes the day special for me with a card and thoughtful gift, it will forever be a bittersweet time of year for me.
You see, my first husband, whom I was with for most of my adult life, died a few days after Valentine’s Day. He and I had spent the holiday week that year at a resort in the Arizona desert- having a romantic getaway. We shopped, toured ancient ruins, ate wonderful meals, and just enjoyed each other’s company. We ran a business together so time alone as a couple to simply relax was very rare.
At the end of the trip, I came home, but he traveled to Los Angeles to attend to some business. He had other stops to make on the return trip to Georgia, so I did not expect to see him for a few more days.
But I never saw him again.
I had been home only one full day, when I got the phone call that changed my life. A heart attack had claimed him; no warning, no close calls, no chance to say goodbye.
Even though it has been several years, Valentine’s Day is a reminder that the anniversary of his death is coming up. I still celebrate him, remember him, and pay tribute to his effect on my life. My current husband has been very supportive from the beginning, and helps me commemorate the day (Yes, I am very blessed).
I try to remember my first husband in a lighthearted way, though it sometimes makes me sad. I am sad because you never expect someone to be ripped from you; and his life was cut short at a young age. But I also remember the good times, the things about him that made me laugh. I cook the same ethnic food his family loved; I play his favorite movie (Top Gun), and look though photo albums, reliving some of the memories.
It helps me to heal, and each year it hurts a little less. But I don’t think the pain will ever go away, and I cannot imagine just ignoring the day. I should be so lucky as to have loved ones commemorating me after I’ve gone.
I know other people do similar things for loved ones who have passed, some they share, and some they do alone. A friend of mine places her father’s Santa hat on the mantle every year, in tribute to him wearing it each Christmas when she was a child. She and her family get the sense that he is there, joining in the holiday festivities.
Another friend observes the date of the child she lost through miscarriage. It is a very personal, private observation, but it has special meaning for her and is something she needs to do.
How do you celebrate or commemorate loved ones that have passed? Do you remember them on their birthdays, holidays, or the day they passed?
I have found that sharing experiences of loss reminds us we are not alone in our grief, for it is a universal experience that we all must face at some time. To remember the ones who have passed on is part of letting them go, while still keeping them in our hearts.