DEAR READERS: On this day that many consider the day of love, I want to do a bit of reflecting. I often get questions from readers who aren't sure how to approach Valentine's Day with their spouse, partner, friends or even ex. Often the discomfort centers on whether the person should buy something, which would require buying into a holiday that some consider manufactured.
I totally get that the marketing of Valentine's Day has become so huge that it can overpower the sentiment the holiday was designed to convey.
For me, Valentine's Day took on a whole new meaning when my father died in 1999. He had been ill for about a year. When he began to decline, I was scheduled to be on a multicity book tour. I wondered if I should go, and my mother sternly told me that I should. That's what my daddy would want. She said she would call me when it was time to come home, and I would just have to be ready to go immediately.
And so it went. I hopped from city to city until I got the call. I made the trek home to Baltimore from the Midwest and immediately went to the hospital to see my father. He was resting comfortably in his bed, and his eyes brightened when he saw my face. I shared with him all that was happening with my book, and his gaze told me that he was proud. As we prepared to leave, I told him that we would be back in the morning, and then I reminded him that the next day was Valentine's Day. My father's face instantly took on a pained expression. He was no longer peaceful. He was upset.
Little did any of us know that he would not be with us that next day. My daddy, the Honorable Harry A. Cole, was born on New Year's Day and died on Valentine's Day. Though he lived a full life that continues to make my family proud, his seemingly untimely death gave Valentine's Day new perspective for us all. Suddenly, Love Day represented the loss of love. In the early years after his death when we would near the day, rather than envisioning a big red heart, we would be filled with sadness. It seemed more like a bleeding heart.
Now that many years have passed, so has that perspective. We can choose to remember the love that we had for our father as we cherish years of memories. My sister Stephanie believes that Daddy waited for me to come to say goodbye before he allowed himself to go. He didn't realize that he would be letting go on Love Day.
In an odd way, his passing has made us have more reverence for this hallowed day. When you realize that your loved ones will not always be here, it makes it easier to remember to show them your love when they are. As I remember my father on this special day, I also will be actively connecting with my family, friends and others who matter to me to remind them that I love them. I hope that you will do the same.