Valentine’s Day

A chapter from my book, FROM WE TO ME LETTERS TO MY FRIEND, holds such poignancy for me.  Therefore, I will reprint it each year around VALENTINE’S DAY.

heart-300By the time February arrived in 1999, five months had passed without John. The week of Valentine’s Day, I had dinner with friends, and decorated John’s stone with festive hearts, even balloons! I sent and received valentines. I thought I was ready to face this romantic holiday alone.

It turned out that I wasn’t. The day began sad and with the passing hours became sadder. There was no heart-shaped valentine on my pillow or vase of red roses, and there were no plans to go out for dinner. The year before, we had gone to see the movie Titanic, followed by wonderful French food. Not this year! I remember standing in my closet of pretty dresses, crying, sure that my social life had ended.

At about noon, I dressed and drove to the cemetery. The grave looked beautiful on what turned out to be a rainy day. Many cars lined the cemetery driveways. I had gotten to know several families with my frequent visits, so I greeted Mr. Miller as he visited Mrs. Miller. Edith, a young mother whose daughter had died of leukemia that year, waved as she placed a bottle of bubbles next to the grave. We all spent moments in quiet thought, then left separately to go back to our new lives.

Almost spent from the flow of tears, I decided to go to a movie. I picked Saving Private Ryan, perfect for the way my day was progressing! The theater was filled with many World War II veterans, some sitting alone, and others sitting together in small groups. I had heard that the movie was a great tribute to those who served, but I was not prepared for the graphic representation of death and destruction.

private_ryanThe story, though violent, shared personal love stories. One poignant one was told by Tom Hanks, who played a first lieutenant. When his platoon asked him about his marriage, he said, “I believe there are some things that should remain private and never repeated by a husband or his wife.” So his men sat back quietly, lost in their won love story memories. That is when my next wave of tears flowed.

For the remainder of the movie, I sobbed with all of the other people. No one knew my story, and I did not know theirs, yet we shared tears together. I actually like this setting, where the tears did not have to be dried, but dried on their own.

When I left the theater, I walked out in silence, as did the rest of the audience. This was the kind of movie that left you speechless, with messages very meaningful and personal. Obviously, that was true, as I relate lines from a film I saw over thirteen years ago. I walked out into the cold darkness, feeling calmer as I realized I had made it through my first Valentine’s Day… without my valentine.

Now, I wish for you great Valentine’s Day memories warmed by the love you shared with Chuck. We were blessed to have our husbands’ hearts all those years and to be with our husbands when those hearts stopped beating.

Talk to you soon, dear friend,

About the Author

Maryann Hartzell-Curran, a retired educator and counselor, has written a personal account of her journey through the first year of grieving the loss of her husband in her book, “From We to Me,” to help support those who have suffered the loss of a loved one.
Maryann founded a successful family therapy practice and taught in the public and private sectors. She also founded and directed a church-based preschool in Lombard, Ill., and gained experience working with the elderly as director of a senior dining center. She has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in counseling from Illinois Benedictine University.

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