Why Valentine's Day Should Be About More Than Celebrating Romantic Love
The death of my dad on Valentine’s Day made me realise the day should be celebrated, single or not.
One writer on why Valentine's Day is always worth celebrating...
I was never one of those girls who was thrown into a tizzy on Valentine’s Day. I do have, ‘My Lord, I will always be single’ moments but my favourite Valentine's memory has never had anything to do with a guy, until now.
My first memory of the day was arriving home for lunch the day after Valentine’s Day when I was 11 years old. I saw my mother had made pearly pink heart-shaped sugar cookies covered in jelly pieces and the wooden table was adorned with pink paper napkins. What she said stuck with me, far past the day she left us after a brutal fight with cancer: "Valentine’s Day should be every day." While in no way ground-breaking, it’s something the corporate machine doesn’t want you to remember.
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That’s all I ever remembered when that day came around year after year, when couples fought, single girls drank and card and flower shops capitalised on people panicking about buying the right gift. Now, however, I have a Valentine’s Day memory that will live side-by-side to this one. It’s one I wish I could change with every intake of breath because I know I will never love a man as much as I loved him.
I got the call at 7am on Valentine’s Day morning. I was five months into my Australian travel adventure and getting ready for work. I had actually congratulated myself minutes before as it was the anniversary of my epiphany from the previous Valentine’s which went something like this: Dump the guy, quit the job, do something that scares you.
I didn’t really see the words coming but come they did, from my sister’s mouth specifically. "Grace, Dad died." What comes next is disbelief that a completely healthy 63-year-old man could die suddenly in his sleep, a horrendous flight home where I wore sunglasses to hide the fact I sobbed the entire way, and the complete and unbearable thought that I was still here, being forced to live without both my parents.
Every time I think about how it feels to get a call like that my ridiculous brain veers back to a strange example - that moment in Passengers where Chris Pratt gets snipped free from the spaceship and floats around in space with no hope of ever finding his way back. I’m probably the only girl who can see myself in a space-bound Chris Pratt character but there it is. My dad was my anchor, my only parent for 17 years, and without him I am quite literally lost on what now seems like a very long road.
The thing is, though, my dad saw and lived through great heartbreak too. The great love of his life died aged 46. Both his best friends died from cancer. He lost his parents within weeks of each other. And yet he got up, showed up, learned the lyrics to every Kelly Clarkson song and raised four daughters, all on his own. And let’s be honest, surviving four teenage girls is no small feat – that’s a serious amount of meltdowns and hormones. I’m not falling into that eulogising habit that creates this perfect human being once they’re gone – he just was that great, no exaggeration necessary.
And for the record, his eulogy was the hardest and easiest thing I’ve ever written.
Dates weigh heavily now. The days they were born, the days they died, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, the last day I saw my father in Heathrow, my sister’s wedding where she walked down the aisle without them both – it feels like the years are now littered with land mines, imploding one day to the next, a razor-sharp reminder of our loss. Except Valentine’s Day.
On 14th February for years to come, I will never be thinking of that guy that chose someone else over me, the one that cheated or the one who taught me what ghosting is, and either should you. True love are those parents that raised you, friends you chose as family and people who sat next to you during those moments when everyone else had given up trying to piece you back together. Buy a rose for those people, cheers them to kingdom come with an espresso martini in hand, because that’s true love at its finest, its most vulnerable, its most selfless – as cheesy at it sounds.
I, for one, will be thinking of two people.
I’ll remember the woman who taught me the true meaning of Valentine’s Day, and the man who lived that lesson until his very last breath.
- Words by Grace Hyne.