A Valentine's Day note and flowers for DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley

Valentines Day

Valentine’s day is a stupid, made-up holiday.

It is!  But I guess so are a lot of quasi-holidays and other silly things we celebrate.  I’m pretty sure Facebook made up National Sibling Day but I love posting pictures of my sister on that day.  So I was never against Valentine’s Day, exactly.  I just didn’t make a big deal out of it.

But Shawn knew better.  He knew that if he forgot to recognize his love for me on this day, even though I thought the holiday was stupid, it might hurt my feelings.  So every year, he made sure to get me something nice.  The first year, when we had been dating only a few months (and we were living in Japan, where Valentine’s Day isn’t really a thing) I thought I’d buy him something useful.  He liked to have these fancy coffee drinks, so I got him a milk frother.

He got me a pair of “love plants” that would eventually grow to decorate my apartment.  He also gave me supplies so we could paint them together and keep the pots with us forever (which we did!)  On his pot he wrote, “M&S forever.”

Again, I got him a milk frother.

He would tease me about this throughout our relationship, but it never stopped him from continuing to do some sort of romantic gesture every Valentine’s Day.

This may be why I’m dreading this upcoming holiday.  Yes, I’ve already lived through one Valentine’s Day without Shawn, but that one was so recently after his death that I was so deep in grief and shock that a made-up holiday didn’t really matter.  Shawn was gone, and it hurt the same on February 13th and 15th as it did on Valentine’s Day.   I don’t really remember that day last year at all.

But now it all seems so ominous.  Because what is Valentine’s Day without the man who thought the sun and the moon revolved around me?  It’s just another stupid made-up holiday.

I was looking over old blog posts the other day, and I re-read one of my favorites.  This part, especially, got me:

Two days before he died, Shawn was up at night, sick from chemotherapy and the cancer that was racking his body. It was about 2 am, and I stumbled out of bed in just a tank top and underwear, rushing to get him a towel to help him wash his face. He could barely walk, but he had managed to get himself to the bathroom without my help, and I was just standing there, trying to figure out what was the best thing for him.

“What can I do for you?” I asked him.

“Nothing,” he said.

He paused.  Then he turned and looked at me and said, “you look hot, by the way.”

I think I laughed, because it was so classically Shawn to say something like that at such a dire moment. In the midst of his pain, he thought I was beautiful, and he wanted me to know it.

The post made me realize, at least a bit, why thinking about Valentine’s Day has been so hard for me.  Yes, it’s a made-up holiday, but it’s also a time when Shawn would make sure to tell me how much he cherished me.  Sure, he told me basically every day, but he knew he had to be extra special about it on Valentine’s Day.

So it’s not that Valentine’s Day makes me feel any more lonely that usual.  It’s that it reminds me of him.  It reminds me that I’m facing the world alone, without him.

This post was supposed to end there, but this morning, as I was getting ready, my daughter came into the bathroom.  I was getting ready for work, and she studied me from the doorway.

“You look pretty today, mama,” she said.

“Thanks, baby,” I said, and I looked at her.  Her eyes crinkled up at the sides as she smiled at me. 

They looked just like Shawn’s.


  • G

    Tomorrow will mark the twentieth anniversary of the day I began this stage of my journey. Even after all these years, I miss her. As usual, I had forgotten it was Valentine’s Day. I can never not remember it since then! It’s like the memories reside on two different levels. These things come back to hit you at random times, whenever you’re tired or preoccupied with unimportant things. Then, you’re back THERE and cursing yourself for not remembering. Thank you for creating this space!

    • Marjorie

      Yes – it is so true that these things do hit at random times. That’s one of the hardest parts – not knowing when to expect it! Thanks so much for sharing. And for reading the blog.

  • Lora

    Thinking of you tomorrow, friend–even if it’s a silly holiday, I’m sure it still hurts. I love that you can still see Shawn in your daughter. I hope that’s always the case. xo

  • Joy

    I LOVE the addendum at the end. It’s like he sent a message to you. I hope you get more messages like that tomorrow. Thinking of you and sending love. You so deserve it.

    • Marjorie

      I know! I was feeling so exhausted by my kids yesterday and I was telling a friend about how I was tired of so many aspects of parenting. And then, this moment happened and I had so many emotions come over me. I’m so lucky that of all of the things Shawn could have left me, he left me these three awesome kids.

      • Kate

        Marjorie, our kids get us through this every day. I see so much of my husband in my son. After a grueling hike with his boy scout troop in freezing temps the other day, he looked at me in the end, smiled and said ‘Best Mom Ever’. How can you beat that feeling? Single Parenting is hard, but I feel fortunate to be a Mom to this awesome little guy.

        • Marjorie

          I love this. I’m so lucky to have my kids – that I know. They provide me with such comfort, even if it does mean some times are harder.

  • Melanie

    We really never cared much for this “holiday” either, thinking it was more important to show how much we loved each other every day. However nice it was to get flowers or whatever on this day, it meant more when it happened on random days…for no reason at all. Valentine’s Day really got to me the first and second years, though, but now I only pay attention to it because I have to as a teacher. There are the projects and the party and the little kids do get excited and glow as they’re handing a box of chocolates or a homemade card to me. So, I can’t help but smile at school and before you know it the day is over.

    I love how your post ended. One thing I really, really miss about Philip is how he would always comment on how I looked once I was ready for work. He’d always say, “You look cute” or”Cute outfit” or “Nice legs!” You’re so blessed to have your children young and at home. You’re surrounded by love every day and that’s what counts.

    • Marjorie

      Oh yes, it will help a lot that I’ll have to deal with high school kids and Valentine’s Day excitement tomorrow. It’s so cute and distracting, that’s for sure! But yes – I’ll still miss the small gestures of love.

  • Candice

    This is lovely. I will get through tomorrow because we had 40 Valentine Days together…even though we thought is was a silly day. Thank you for this post.

  • Gabe

    Catching up on recent posts and lots of tears are flowing. Beautiful writing as usual and I’m so touched by the comments from fellow widows. Your blog is helping so many all over the world! I thought I was in the clear for this post but alas, Claire’s kind compliment made me tear up. I love that sweet girl. You will continue to get messages from Shawn for life— the kids have a lot of his qualities— how special! Love you, Marjorie!

    • Marjorie

      Me too – the comments from fellow widows are the reason I’m still writing this blog….honestly, it means so much to me that other people in similar situations find that some of my posts can resonate with them.