Years After Valentine's Loss, the Blessings of Love Remain
Author: Ellen Andrews
Chocolate, flowers, candy, cards and romantic dinners. Valentine’s Day conjures up a myriad of images and feelings. You can’t go anywhere in the months of January and early February without being bombarded by store shelves filled with pink and red and “Be Mine” hearts.
And while this annual holiday brings warm thoughts and joy to most, it can be a difficult time to navigate when your heart is grieving. When someone you love deeply is gone from this earth. For many years, the day symbolizing love represented something completely different to me. It represented the day beauty, joy and love were ripped away.
On Valentine’s Day 1995, I received a lovely bouquet of a dozen red roses from my fiancé, David. At the time he was serving as a Primary Flight Instructor at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas as part of Training Squadron Twenty-Eight (VT-28). He called to make sure I had gotten the flowers as he was about to walk out the door for a flight. I had no idea it would be the last conversation we ever had.
On the evening of February 14, 1995, my valentine died.
Just two short months before, he had gotten down on his knee and asked me to become his wife. In that moment – we pledged to love, honor and cherish each other ‘til death do us part. ‘Til death do us part came much too soon – it came before “I do.”
Fast forward 25 years and here I stand. Older, hopefully wiser for all that life has thrown my way. In the darkness that surrounded me following David’s death, I could not see the future, I could not see hope, I could not see anything beyond my pain.
Today, smiles have returned; laughter and joy have returned. Life has knocked me down a few times since then but I have gotten back up each time. We are only given today – a precious gift that we should embrace with hope and wonder. I owe it to David to embrace life with as much enthusiasm as he did and to be true to myself and be the person he fell in love with all those years ago. And frankly, I owe it to myself as well.
When did I turn the corner from darkness and into a place where smiles replaced tears? I can’t pinpoint a particular time. My grief journey has been my own – as your journey is yours. It is different for each of us. We each find our footing again at our own pace. We find the support and nourishment for our souls to sustain us as we move forward. It may be family, friends or activities that allow us to express our emotions and reconnect with favorite hobbies and experiences: art, music, writing, volunteering, sports or we use our journey to be of support to others.
As another Valentine’s Day approaches, I no longer view it with dread or in a negative sense. Nor do I think of it with sadness. Yes, it is a date upon which something traumatic and terrible happened in my life, but I am no longer paralyzed by this date on the calendar.
I choose to look at the date for what it stands for – Love.
Ellen with TAPS President and Founder Bonnie Carroll at the annual TAPS Honor Guard Gala
Ellen with good friends and colleagues Marie Campbell and Kellie Hazlett.
Love given and love received. I reflect upon the blessing that was given to me by having David in my life – by having all those I have loved in my life. People that are still here physically and those who are not. My parents, family and friends who gave to me life lessons and unconditional love and support. People who all played a significant role in my life and influenced me in profound ways.
My life was forever altered because of what happened 25 years ago. However, it does not completely define me. The core of who I was – who I am – has never left me. I am more than a survivor – I am me.
There is more to me than one event. I don’t deny its impact on my life. It was deeper and more intense than I can possibly explain. Given the benefit of hindsight, I am able to see the path I have travelled since being in a place of loneliness, of pain and of fear. My time with David was a blessing and will continue to bless me. That can never be taken away. I have met people who are treasures in my life now – people I would not have met had fate not set my feet upon this path. I have found new blessings, new appreciation for each day, new purpose and new adventures on this unexpected journey – and it has revealed to me that I can be brought to my knees and I can rise again.
Our loved ones may have a different place in our daily lives now, but the love, laughter, kindness, special moments and spirit remain. They are a part of the tapestry of our lives, and they are our forever valentines.
This Valentine’s Day – remember all that we were so blessed to receive. Remember the smiles, remember the joy. Remember the love.
Ellen Andrews is TAPS Senior Advisor, Survivor Services.
In loving memory of David J. Huber, Lieutenant, U.S. Navy