A Valentine's Story
Many years ago, I met one of the sweetest ladies I have ever known. Upon our first meeting, she was feverishly ill and bedridden. Her husband, Mr. L, was concerned that she wouldn’t recover. He stated to me, “I can’t stand to see my Valentine like this.” Knowing it wasn’t February and that we were in the middle of a record hot July, I understood what he meant. Mr. L told me how he always thought he would leave this world before she did. After all, he was several years her senior. Her body was failing and he knew that time was no longer on her side.
He came in and out of her room a dozen times to check on her that evening, never staying more than a couple of minutes. His visage was somber and nearly abrupt. Mrs. L had been sleeping for more than 20 hours and her breaths were deep and pulling. He sat in their kitchen staring into his cup of coffee, as if preparing for the long night ahead. He was appreciative of visitors that came by and expressed thankfulness for my empathy, but continued to shake his head in disbelief. He clung tightly to his “L” embroidered handkerchief and turned his head away from me to wipe each tear. I knew he wanted to be alone.
After a few hours of wearing a path between the kitchen and her room, his own frailness gave him no choice, but to rest on the couch. As I cared for Mrs. L, I noticed little change until closer to dawn. As the sun arose on that hot July morning, her eyes began to squint at the light filtering through the curtains. She attempted to raise her hand to her face as a shield, as she shifted her small frame. When I spoke to her, a shaky voice responded. I had taken care of the dying for several years and rarely saw a turn-around. By the time the room was filled with hot summer sun, she was asking for Mr. L.
I stood in the doorway as he kneeled to kiss his sweet Valentine on her hand that morning. Once again, I caught a glimpse of the “L” embroidered handkerchief. He softly told her, “I remember when you made this for me.” She traced the “L” with her withered finger. She smiled.
When I was lucky enough to meet Mrs. L for a second time, she was sitting up in her bed. It had been a week. She was awake. She was tired, but living. Mr. L was helping his Valentine with her lunch. He was no longer abrupt or at a loss for words. He spoke with the grandness of a patriarch and was a kind host.
Mr. L had taken care of her when the end seemed nigh. She did the same for him. He took his first Heavenly breath on February 14th, seven months later.
Mrs. L continued to live. She embraced life for the next 4 years. I know his love for her filled that tiny country home. She shared that love with me through talks on her front porch and over coffee at the same kitchen table, where he had wiped away his own grieving tears. I listened as decades of their life together spilled from her heart. I asked her once, why Mr. L always called her his Valentine. She explained that he always told her that every day was Valentine’s Day when you are spending your life with your best friend. I am so blessed that I was able to be a speck in the middle of their Valentine’s story…and what a story it was…what a story it is.