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A Memorable Valentine

Answering a telephone call before my first sip of coffee in the morning is a stretch for me, but this morning was Valentine’s Day and the caller ID showed it was my mother calling. I clicked on ‘answer’ and mustered up my best, although slightly trite salutation of “good morning, Mother.”

I had not talked to her in a while, so despite my early morning funk, I was happy to hear her voice. We chatted about my daughter’s recent activities and I heard updates about a house renovation she is working on and the activities of my niece and nephew. I was happy to hear that she was staying busy with her real estate job and had recently sold several properties.

This is such good news in light of the loss she experienced just over a year ago. My dad, her husband of 55 years went to be with the Lord after having battled cancer for several years. The final year he was pretty much bed ridden and her life slowed to a near standstill as she cared for him around the clock. I never heard her complain and knew she considered it a privilege to be the one to assist him in his final days on earth - this faithful and hard working man who devoted his life to loving and caring for her and his family. Toward the end of his life, when she had to get help to maneuver him physically, I begged her to get hospice to take over but she resisted until the very last two days of his life. (If you are doing the math and wondering how my Mother achieved these stressful feats physically, she is ten years younger than my dad.)

Holidays are always challenging for those who have recently lost a loved one, so I was expecting to reminisce with Mother about the jewelry Dad would have picked out for her on past Valentine’s Days, or the lovely bouquet of flowers he was always faithful to deliver. But our conversation stayed focused on the busyness of our lives.

Then almost as an afterthought, she told me that she had gone out to get the paper at 6:30 a.m. as always and saw Mark, her neighbor. Mark was a regular visitor during Dad’s bedridden days. Mother and Dad both looked forward to his visits because he was loud, rather gruff and always had a story to tell that made you feel like you had just paid money to see a Paramount Picture Show. I think my dad represented a father figure to Mark and that their admiration of one another was mutual.

Anyway, Mother didn’t see her newspaper, and Mark yelled to her from across the street that her paper was by the front door. She walked around the corner and there on top of the newspaper were a dozen red roses. Her voice began to break as she tried to read me the note he left, and I couldn’t make out her words. All I heard was that he signed off as “your pecan-pie loving friend.”

The love my father and mother experienced together through service and devotion to one another left an indelible mark on all who knew them. How sweet and enduring is the power of love, having tender affection and compassion for another. The richness that comes from years of devoted commitment to another is indeed the best thing this life has to offer.

That love was the inspiration for Mark to buy a beautiful bouquet of roses to place on my mother’s doorstep on Valentine’s morning. He knew there was no greater way to honor my father than to bless his Valentine during his absence, and in so doing it was almost as if the sentiment was not from Mark, but from my father himself. It sent a powerful message to my mother's heart.

Later I called and she told me that these were the words written on the card:

For my special friend,

Some gifts you hold in your hand and some you hold in your heart

Your friendship makes my life sweeter and my heart very glad,

Your pecan-pie loving friend, Mark (my mother makes pecan pies for Mark)

Who can you bless today with an act of kindness? Ask God to show you someone who needs encouragement or a helping hand and realize the power you have to use your time and resources to make a real difference in someone’s day. Make your day special. Make your life count.

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