Lasts Things: Valentine’s Day

I have never been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day. The candy, yes! But not so much the holiday. I got caught up in the hoopla as a teen, but even then enjoyed the day as more of a silly holiday better spent with friends. My parents and I have exchanged cards and little fun gifts (mostly candy) every year. My parents always exchanged cards with one another but never made a big show of having a big V-Day date or anything that I can remember.

My mom died on March 5, about three weeks after Valentine’s Day.

The Valentine’s Day cards we all exchanged were still displayed on a bookshelf when she died. I left them up for the collation we held at my parent’s house after her funeral.

I left them up for two years…until I had to take them down because the house was being sold.

These were the last cards my parents ever gave one another.

We make a big deal about “firsts” and everyone wants to make those firsts special. We keep baby books about first everythings! We talk about our first kiss, first love, first job, first time…whatever!

What about the lasts?

When grievers are pushed to move on too fast, it means speeding past the last things. It means not savoring the memory of the last of anything that you did or said or had together. Why do we feel the need to rush past the last things? Aren’t they just as important, sometimes more so, than the firsts? Are lasts too sad or too morbid or too…real for grief supporters around us to comfortably appreciate?

Think about the last Valentine’s Day (whether it was the best one or the worst one) you shared with your lost loved one. Don’t let other people force you out of that memory. Sink into it and let the love you’re missing pour into the memory of that moment and just be.

I don’t remember that Valentine’s Day, but I remember the cards. I remember tearing up as I read my parents’ cards to each other and being so angry that it ended like this. I cried for my dad, who had to stare at them daily. I cried for my mom, who never got to say anything like a goodbye to him. I cried for the fact that we would never hear “I love you” from her or say it to her ever again.

I buy my father a card every Valentine’s Day. When I had my child, I started buying two. I never want him to feel unloved or forgotten on Valentine’s Day.

I still have the last Valentine’s Day cards from February 2015. I will never throw them away.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Published by ancarroll

Alexandra N. Carroll is an author, grief advocate, crafter, mother, and partner. She writes on grief and self-care from her home in Vermont. Her forthcoming book concerns how to untangle life-after-loss through the creation of a strong self-care plan.

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