Hearts & Flowers – by Kathie Boyd
It’s strange, is it not, that we pick February as the month for lovers? It is cold and snowy and the only good thing about the month seems to be it only lasts for 28 days and once every four years, the agony is prolonged by a day. Yet, in the midst of our “Barnegat Blows” and slushy heaps of gray/white snow, we head out to buy lacey valentine cards, ruby red roses and chocolates nestled in heart-shaped boxes for the ones we love.
Many of us at Heritage Point have known our spouses for a good part of our life. For the first time, many of us might be looking at the other in a very different light–a very bright light—one not obscured by raising children, career climbing, and a myriad of chores that had to be squeezed in on weekends. We are celebrating marriage milestones—40, 50, 60+ years of marriage. We are experiencing changes in our own lives, those of our middle aged children, our neighbors and friends. We have reached the age when we can finally comprehend that “true love” occurs somewhere around 60—not 16! We also know that a valentine is a heart that gives, a heart that glows and, at this stage of our lives, a heart that grieves.
I have been blessed to witness and experience long term love in marriage: First, my parents, then my own and now those of my friends at Heritage Point. And, just as I rejoice when I get an opportunity to celebrate the longevity of a marriage, I know there is a flip side. I am learning how to grieve with my friends and neighbors the loss of their valentine.
My father used to have a habit of hanging his trousers up by closing the cuffs in the top drawer of his dresser. Day in and day out, my mother would patiently take the pants out of the drawer and hang them properly in the closet where they belonged. As a teenager of 17 who had reached the age of know-it-all, I once asked her “How can you stand it? Just tell him it makes you crazy and that he should hang his pants up in the closet.” Mom just smoothed the creases from the cuffs and placed the pants in the closet. “What would really make me crazy, Kathie, would be the day they no longer hang there.”
When I first decided to move to a senior community, some of my co-workers wrinkled their noses. “Too much sickness and dying in those places,” they would lament. And, while it is true that death visits all of us, young and old alike, that shadowy specter does have a tendency to hang out just a tad bit longer in the recesses of senior communities. However, it is in such a place I gather strength. I see my friends nurse sick spouses through illnesses with love and compassion. I see my friends bury their spouses with dignity and strength. I see my friends refuse to give up even to an adversary as strong as death. My friends bless me with their presence and support me with their strength. There is no need for names–they know who they are. I just wanted them to know that I do too!