Today is Valentine’s Day.
Like most little girls, Caitlin loved Valentine’s Day (and every holiday). She would have picked out a pretty little outfit, with a sparkly headband. She would have spent hours in the craft room with me, making Valentine’s for all those she adored. She would have started celebrating last night, and wouldn’t stop until some time tomorrow morning. She would have giggled in anticipation of a Valentine’s party and exchange at school. You would think today would be exceptionally hard for me…
It hasn’t been though. I wondered why I didn’t get out of bed with dread. I was curious why I haven’t cried yet. I have been puzzled at my ability to laugh genuinely and easily so far today.
I had coffee with a friend, ran an errand and came home. Dark clouds have covered the blue sky since late last night. They will be stuck in the same place all day, and most of tomorrow. They threaten to storm, with heavy rains and strong winds; perfect weather for staying inside. I had almost convinced myself the elements those clouds promised to deliver were an excellent reason to abandon going for a run.
I ran anyway.
And on my way home I had a silent chat with Caitlin. I don’t talk ‘to’ her, ever. I always talk ‘about’ her. But today, the music coming through my earbuds faded away regardless of what the volume button indicated, and I found myself lost in a one-sided conversation.
It was somewhat circular and disjointed, so I cleaned it up a little to share with you. Here, I found why I haven’t been overwhelmed with the sadness I was certain today would hold.
My sweet girl, it’s Valentine’s Day. I can picture you smiling, getting out of my car and headed into school, your arms filled with Valentine’s for everyone you would pass. I can hear your giggle as you would show me your goodies when you got home. I can feel your arms wrap tightly around my neck in bigger hugs than normal, because, after all, it’s Valentine’s Day.
But I’m not sad.
Campbell is struggling. She thinks I took you away to heaven, and blames me for not bringing you back home. She is certain I am responsible for your disappearance from our lives. I know it’s developmentally appropriate, but it still makes me sad.
Cole seems to be doing well, but sometimes without warning, he will start to cry or ask a question about you that tells me he thinks of you often, and misses you.
Courtney, too, misses you terribly and feels your absence as only a big sister can. She has a hard time letting her emotions out, and I am failing in my attempts to help her.
Daddy is sad at times too. He works hard, and comes home trying to smile for us. I can tell, though, that sometimes he would rather be alone and cry, or think of you. He doesn’t though, knowing we need him to be with us.
Grandma misses your sass, and the unique way that you could deliver that sass without being rude.
Pop misses your ongoing debate about who is a bigger knucklehead.
Nana misses your sweet hugs and kisses.
Dean, DeeDee, Holly and Jason miss you. I know, they tell me.
Your friends miss you. They sleep with treasures that remind them of you, and take them in for show and tell.
Those friends (really, they are extended family) who watched you grow from the day you were born, until the day you died, miss you. I know because I can see it in their eyes, and hear it in their voices.
Those friends and teachers and coaches and clinicians and loved ones we have met along the way miss you.
Strangers and people who have never met you, miss you.
I miss you, Caitlin. I miss you fiercely.
But today, I will not be sad. I will not cry for you. Because it is Valentine’s Day.
Today I will celebrate how much I love those right here with me.
I will celebrate my love for Campbell, Cole and Courtney.
I will celebrate my love for Daddy.
I will celebrate my love for your grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, and extended family.
I will celebrate my love and gratitude for our friends, both old and new, and for all the many people who have helped and cheered and prayed and supported, and loved you.
Today, sweet girl, I know your gentle heart will understand, and not be angry, as I rejoice and devote my own heart to each one of those we cherish, admire and hold so dear.
I rounded the corner as I finished my run. I thought how silly I was for having this kind of conversation. I looked in the sky to see the dark clouds moving back and forth, in and out of one another. I walked through the garage, grabbed a Powerade and headed inside with the garage door squeaking shut behind me. I passed through the kitchen, and, still unsettled with the feelings I had for having talked to my daughter when she certainly couldn’t hear, I walked out to the back porch and sat on the swing.
You won’t believe me, but as I finished my drink, I stood, shook my head and started in side. I saw this.
Happy Valentine’s Day loved ones, d