Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

Last year, I noted with some surprise and some relief that Valentine's Day didn't feel like a huge emotional ordeal anymore.  This year feels different still: I'm fairly sure this is the best Valentine's Day I have ever had.  At least, it is almost certainly the best Valentine's Day I've ever had since the worst Valentine's Day I've ever had, which was the day as a teenager when I first really had my heart broken.  (First runner-up for worst Valentine's Day ever: I came down with the chickenpox on Feb. 14, 1989. So I think I come by my antipathy for the holiday quite honestly.)

It has been a beautiful day today.  I have had several rich conversations with people I love, who love me.  And I have received several serendipitous little surprises that have added joy to my day, from discovering that something that I thought might be a problem with my vehicle turns out not to be a problem to happening upon a book that I have long desired for my personal library at the Friends of the Library sale at my public library.

I scroll through my facebook feed, and I find myself reacting with equal delight to the creativity of those who lampoon Valentine's Day as a made-up, manipulative scheme of the Hallmark corporation and to the sincerity of those who use this occasion to declare their love for their spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends, parents, kids, siblings, friends, what have you.  I am blessed with such an amazing collection of people to love, and this fantastic technology that makes it easy to keep in touch with them (even if a certain proportion of them did just sign off for forty days of social media fasting for Lent).

Yet there's a part of me that feels like it's just WRONG for me to be having a good day today, because of something else that is going on at the same time as these rich conversations and little surprises and fun facebook reminders of friends and loved ones: today, someone I love deeply and will miss profoundly is going through the very hard work of leaving this world for the next.

This is a mercy, coming at the end of a long illness that has brought much sorrow to my loved one and those closest to him.  It is a Good Death, with a devoted son keeping vigil, with many other loved ones accompanying him with their prayers, with excellent, compassionate medical and personal care (High Desert Hospice and Pelican Pointe Memory Care Community: may your tribes increase!). He is not suffering, and, as my mother loves to say, "heaven will be better."  Not only that: heaven will be perfect.  But the world will be a poorer place for those of us who are going to catch up later.

But even if today ends up being the day that this precious, faithful soul finishes the race set out for him, I don't think that's going to catapult 2013 to the top of the list of worst St. Valentine's Days Ever.  I'm reminded of how we got Saint's Days in the first place: the early church commemorated the faithful departed not on the dates of their births, but on the dates of their deaths, for that was the date on which they were born into the new life to come.  If this is the day, then St. Valentine's Day will forever after be for me St. Jim's Day, an unshakeable reminder that I have been truly, deeply loved, and I have the precious and privileged heritage of sharing that love for as long as the Lord gives me life.

Give rest, O Christ, to your servant with your saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting. Amen.

ETA, 8 p.m. PDT:  A blessed St. Jim's Day to all, especially his family and beloved friends.  Acknowledge, O merciful Savior, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace,
and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.


David and Sarah said...

You are such a beautiful writer, Rachel!

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