OK...so I know it's not really Valentine's Day yet, but it feels like it is. I think having Valentine's Day fall on a Sunday makes it feel like it lasts all weekend long, including the Friday before!
I've never really been a big fan of Valentine's Day. It has always seemed like a very commercialized holiday to me...just an excuse to sell a bunch of flowers, candy, and cards. I guess that's the cynic in me. And now this day has some really difficult memories associated with it.
The first symptoms of Hannah's brain tumor appeared two years ago on Valentine's Day. She woke up with a terrible headache and nausea, and was unable to go to school that day. She was disappointed to miss that day, because she really enjoyed Valentine's Day (not being a cynic like me!). Those symptoms recurred over the next few days, and you know the rest of that story.
Last year at this time, Hannah's condition was really deteriorating. Like I said in my last post, she was sleeping about 20 hours out of every day, and was becoming very confused and disoriented. At this point, she was eating only Special K cereal, oranges, and microwaveable fettucini alfredo. She would wake up in the middle of the night, and want Special K, an orange, and some fettucini. Then she would wake up in the afternoon, and want Special K, an orange, and some fettucini. Of course, we gave her whatever she wanted whenever she wanted it. Most of the time she sat in her bed and ate, but sometimes she'd come sit in the recliner in the living room for awhile.
Brad has always gotten the girls roses on Valentine's Day, and last year was no exception. They always look forward to getting this special gift from their Dad on Valentine's Day. Last year, Hannah got a lot of enjoyment out of her roses. She had almost no short-term memory by this time, and so everytime she saw the roses, it was like she had just received them for the first time. She would say, "Oh, Daddy...they're so pretty. Thank you!" This was huge, because she really was talking very little at this point. Believe me, it meant so much to him!
Last year, Bethany went to the 7th & 8th grade Valentine's dance, where she was crowned queen for the evening. The vote was taken during the school day, and her teacher called to let me know that she had won. She thought I would like to be there to see her crowned. Of course, I went. Bethany looked beautiful, and I was so glad I was able to be there for her big moment. But it was a very surreal experience for me...for one thing, I had hardly been out of the house at all (other than to Children's Hospital and back) for several weeks, and it was difficult to face all the wonderful, concerned people who wanted to know how Hannah was doing. It was hard to know how to answer that question when she was doing so badly. And how strange it was to see one daughter at a dance so vibrant and alive, while the other daughter was at home just a shell of her former self. The swirl of emotion that night was indescribable.
And that brings us to this year. My heart aches for Brad, who will only get to purchase a bouquet for one daughter. He misses Hannah so badly. His grief is always right at the surface, but his faith in God's goodness is unwavering. He's been such an amazing example to me. On Saturday night (Valentine's Eve), our senior high basketball teams will play their last regular season games. It was supposed to be on Tuesday night, but because of all the winter weather, it's been rescheduled for Saturday. The last game of the year is always "Senior Night", where each senior athlete is recognized, and comes out to the middle of the gym to stand with their parents. The announcer tells all about them...who their parents are, what sports they've played, what they like to do, etc. As the manager of the girls' basketball team, Hannah would have been one of those recognized, and we would have walked out on the floor with her. Instead, she's in Heaven, and we will be sitting in the bleachers watching this year's seniors and their parents. Just another reason to not really be looking forward to Valentine's Day this year. And just another reminder that while Hannah is where she was created to be, we are definitely out of place. And just another reason to look forward to the day when God sets all things right.
One of my favorite songs right now is by J. J. Heller, and the chorus goes like this -- "When my world is shaking, Heaven stands. And when my heart is breaking, I will never leave Your hands." So thankful that in this shaking, heart-breaking world, He is always there!