Last Friday was the first Valentine’s Day since my dad died. My brother and I don’t know what Dad usually did for the big day, so we got Mom some flowers. They are pink, not red. And the card simply says, “Happy Valentine’s Day;” it does not have one of those cheesy romantic Hallmark verses that my Dad somehow managed to get away with year after year.
She cried when she saw the flowers. With my mom, there are a lot of tears. And it’s not always easy to tell the happy ones from the sad ones. I’m sure these tears were both kinds–the love for her children and the longing for her husband pooling together in the corners of her eyes and trailing down her cheeks.
And I really hate that this is all I can do–give her flowers and cards and space. Indulge her new-found passion for Jayhawk basketball, watching the games my dad can no longer watch. (The games he wouldn’t want to watch this year.) Step around the boxes that say “Go Through Later.” Make sure the books in the give-away box don’t have his odd half-printing, half-cursive, writing in the margins. Remind her that we need a monument at the grave. Some time. When she’s ready.
I have my own grief, of course. And I hold hers. Because that’s what daughters do. Or maybe that’s what pastors do. Or at least that’s what I do.
I hold the grief. I want to throw it out the window and let the hungry birds carry it away piece by broken piece. I want to dump it in the compost bin and think about it decomposing in the humid heat until it is good for growing next year’s flowers and food. I want to tuck it into a hand-made card and mail it somewhere beautiful and warm and far away.
There are so many things I want to do with this grief–mine and hers. Yet I find I am still here, holding it. Letting it soften my words and extend my patience. Examining it for clues about how to be in this world now, without Dad. Trusting it’s nudgings toward cards and flowers and small steps of love.