Valentine’s Day 1995: I had just sat down at my desk in my home office for a busy day work-wise when the phone rang. It was Nina calling me from Park High School. “Mom, you have to help me. I need to have something for Chris (her new boyfriend) for Valentine’s Day. I am pretty sure that he got me something and I really want to get him something too.” Furthermore, she knew exactly what she wanted: glow in the dark stars, like the ones she had on her bedroom ceiling. The place to find them was at Spencer’s Gifts at Maplewood Mall, 30 minutes away. I unabashedly let her know that this was not in my plans, but finally relented with her sweetly desperate pleadings. It turns out that it took me trips to three stores, scattered over all ends of the Twin Cities, before I found the stars. I was not happy. I barely made it home before they came home from school. She hugged and thanked me profusely. A short time later, she came up the stairs, beaming from ear to ear, wearing the cherry red turtleneck with the Tweety Bird insignia that she got from Chris. I will never forget that smile. My anger at running all around town subsided quickly when I saw the joy in her beautiful hazel eyes. I am so glad that I took the time to do this special something for her. Little did I know that it would be the last Valentine’s Day that I would have a chance to do anything for her ever again.
Valentine’s Day 1996: As I look out my office window today and watch the powdery snow being blown sideways from the gale-like winds with temps predicted to plunge into the –40 windchill levels, I am reminded of that day in 1996. Despite the cold and the below-freezing temps, I made my way out to the cemetery where I had tragically buried my Nina the May before. Though I tried to remember her sparking eyes and happiness from the previous year, the winter I felt in my heart could not see it. The stark contrast between 1995 and 1996 was immeasurable. I slipped and slid my way to her gravesite and stood there, tears freezing on my face, my body frozen in grief with disbelief that I should have a reason to even be there. I stood there for a long time and finally picked up a tree twig and wrote in the snow on her grave, “I Heart U”, the only way I knew to send a Valentine’s Day to my precious daughter.
The above is a reminder to me of how far I have come from that sorrow-filled Valentine’s Day in 1996, and all those horrific firsts, seconds, and beyond after my Nina left this plane. Do I continue to miss my precious daughter? Yes, an emphatic yes! On a daily basis, more than words can ever express; that missing, loving and longing will stay with me for the rest of my life. But, my Valentine message to those lonely hearts who are missing a precious one so desperately today: there is hope. Though life can never be as it was before, you eventually will find joy and laughter and love again in this “new normal.” And you will remember them and keep them in your heart always and forever. I promise.
Cathy Seehuetter, Nina’s mom