It’s Not About the Roses

By Emma Pearson

May 25, 2024

Image by Yoksel on Unsplash

13 February 2022

It’s Valentine’s Day already in some parts of the world.

I know that the date fills a number of my fellow widbuds with Horror.

Or Grief.

Or Sadness.

Or Resentment.

There’s such “noise” around Valentine’s day in (at least Anglophone) parts of the world – it’s one of those many “Hallmark reminders” that your life doesn’t fit the conventional norm. (Even if it never did, it did just a bit more “before”). And so the gaping hole is felt all the more keenly post loss.

There are gently beautiful, truly amazing stories that I have read, where people actively seek to acknowledge how hard this date can be – particularly around the whole “flowers” side – with some florists catering explicitly for widow.er.s.  Here are two such stories.

https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Living/mom-surprises-400-widows-flowers-valentines-day/story?id=82829079

or this one:

They make for heartfelt reading. I am impressed at this level of organisation, initiative and generosity. Truly.

And… it’s not about the roses.

Or (in my case), tulips (because, heck, tulips are more in season, last longer, m u c h cheaper than roses, and don’t need to be flown in. By golly do I love to receive tulips at this time of year).

It is – as always – about the lost relationship.

The absence of the comfy companionship.

The gaping hole where love once suffused your day.

The silencing of the echo that reverberated all the time, saying, “I see you! You exist! You make me who I am!” (or whatever good love does to you).

And it applies every day – not just on 14th February.

Mike and I always remembered, always honoured, 14th February. We always prepared and wrote a card for one another. Oddly, Mike knew that the card he received was from me, and I always knew that the card I received was from him. The whole “mystery” side of Valentine’s day that was so important in my teens and early 20s so long forgotten.

What was important was that we took the time to buy and write a card. Always sentences. A proper text. Some reflections on what we loved about the other, what we loved about our love, what we loved about our us-ness. I have decades’ worth of those cards. Still.

And yet, soppy and romantic it was not. Not really. It was a gift. A marker in time. A slowing down to re-remember and re-state just how important each of us was to the other. A reminder that “we were there first” – before the kids.

We honoured that. That love. That precious gift.

Mike’s last Valentine’s day, 2017, he forgot to get me a card.

He had other things going on. Like chemo. His hair falling out.

He burst into tears when I gave him his. (Because gone were the days/years when I hid the card for him to find, or sent it “anonymously” in the post).

It remains one of the absolutely hardest, viscerally painful, desperately sad, moments in my life.

And there have been many.

He knew it was our last Valentine’s day, even if I was still in denial.

Perhaps.

Perhaps not.

I think, each and every year, there was a recognition that we knew that what we had was special. Something we didn’t take for granted. Yes – we wanted more time, and might have said, “ten more years of this, please!” But we didn’t assume we might get it.

And here, I think we both knew our time together was running out.

As it can any time, any day, any moment.

I take nothing for granted.

And so I continue to buy/make Valentine’s cards, even if I am now in a relationship with a man who wonders what all the fuss is about.

He receives his cards with bemusement (I think). And also appreciation. Perhaps francophone cultures don’t do Valentine’s day so well. Perhaps it’s all too Hallmarky and Americano-British-Anglo-Saxonish. Perhaps francophone cultures are better at suffusing their daily lives with appreciation and love and gratitude and don’t need a calendar prompt mid-way between the New Year and Easter.

Whatever.

It still matters to me, because it’s always mattered.

Because it mattered to Mike.

Because it mattered to us.

To mark and to honour Love.

I hope that I will always have someone in my life to write a Valentine’s card to.

I hope that I will always be someone’s Valentine.

Whether they still breathe or have died.

Not because I am a soppy romantic.

I am not.

But because Love really is all that ever matters.

Down through time and the ages, and through lifetimes and breath, generations past, present and future – it really is the only thing.

About Emma Pearson

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