I remember my first Valentine’s Day as a newlywed; this was more than thirty years ago. I had to travel for business that week, but my return flight was the afternoon of February 14th, so my husband, Mark, who loves to cook, was planning a special fondue dinner.
As I flew back to Chicago, the pilot announced, “There are currently blizzard conditions in Chicago, and O’Hare is closed for all landings. We have been rerouted to Cleveland.” Oh no, not Cleveland! I had nothing against Cleveland, but it certainly wasn’t where I wanted to spend my Valentine’s night.
After we landed, there was a long line to obtain a voucher for lodging. When I finally got to the desk, I was told that they had just given the last voucher away for the airport hotel. Instead, they offered a van to a small hotel on the other side of the city.
Sadly, it turned out to be a pretty crummy hotel; there were people banging around outside my door. I ended up eating pasta in the mediocre hotel restaurant with my boss rather than being home with Mark.
Fortunately, I was able to make it home the following morning with no issues. When I entered our condo, the dinner table was still beautifully set from the previous evening with a dozen roses as a centerpiece. Mark and I ended up enjoying a wonderful belated Valentine lunch. That day, I was in touch with a love that waits.
About ten years ago, I spent my Valentine’s day at the hospital with my parents. My Dad had survived a really difficult heart surgery on New Year’s Eve followed by five months of extreme ups and downs, most of this in ICU. Sadly, he eventually couldn’t fight off the infections, and we lost him in May.
On Valentine’s Day, my Dad, John, was not doing well mentally, had a trach tube, and was not able to talk. I arrived in his room and showed him the candy I had bought for him to give to the nurses. He nodded and smiled, but I wasn’t sure that he got it. Then, I taped red and pink hearts to the wall.
My mom, Katie, came in and sat next to him. I turned on the Frank Sinatra tunes, and she read him her Valentine’s card. He motioned for the whiteboard. I hadn’t seen him write for weeks, and when he had, most of it was indecipherable. I wrote, “Happy Valentine’s Day” on the board and drew a heart.
I put the pen in his hand, and he drew what looked like a big circle. I wondered if he, too, was trying to draw a heart. Below it, he printed, “John + Katie.” That day, I was in touch with a love that endures.
Finally, a few years ago, I returned to one of my ministry locations, a permanent supportive housing facility on the southside of Chicago. I was typically there weekly, but this time, I had been on vacation for a couple weeks and then had to unexpectedly attend a mandatory training. I had shared my schedule with staff there, but for some reason, it was never passed along to the residents.
As I set up for the spiritual care group, a woman, I’ll call her Dee, wheeled herself into the room and immediately started lecturing me. “We didn’t know where you were. We thought we would never see you again. Don’t ever do that again to us.” I tried to explain myself, but she just wouldn’t listen.
Later, as I left the building, I heard a loud voice from above. I looked up and there was Dee sitting on the balcony in her wheelchair with a cigarette in hand, yelling at the top of her lungs, “Bridget! Bridget! I’m so glad you’re back! I love you Bridget! I love you Bridget! I sheepishly looked up. I was a little embarrassed and completely overwhelmed. Finally, I shouted back, “I love you, too, Dee! See you next week!” Of course, she continued, “I love you, Bridget. I love you, Bridget!” That day I experienced a love that overwhelms.
A love that waits. A love that endures. A love that overwhelms. In some surprising moments, when I’m awake to it, this love appears in human form. I also trust that the divine is working through each encounter.
How about you? When have you been awake to a significant moment of love or sense of connection?
I originally shared a version of this piece in the virtual winter series, “A Light in Darkness” through Siena Retreat Center in February 2022.
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