Have you heard the whispers? They’re rustling in the seasonal aisles and near the check-out counters. Scads of heart-themed products—candies, balloons, jewelry, and more—are competing for our attention this week. Listen! There they go again. “February 14 is almost here. PICK ME!”
With so many Valentine’s options, how do you choose the right gift?
My husband and I have a simple solution. We don’t choose. That’s right. No Valentine’s gifts for us. After twenty years of marriage, it’s difficult to find fresh ideas. Besides, we’re on a mission to de-clutter, to shift our focus from material goods to what matters most—God, family, friends. Plus, we’ve earmarked our surplus dollars for more urgent purposes, such as paying medical expenses to treat our chronically ill daughter.
But we do set aside a quiet time to exchange greeting cards.
That’s why choosing the right card is a serious undertaking for me, and this year, I found the perfect one.
I didn’t select it for its graphics. A heart is a heart is a heart, after all. So what captured my attention?
“Real love isn’t found in the falling—,” the American Greetings sentiment begins.
Jake Wilson would agree. Co-owner of a small-town florist in my debut novel Delivery, Jake depends upon business thriving in February. He earns a significant portion of his yearly income from Valentine’s sales. But while his wife Ida receives one of the most stunning bouquets in town, he knows expressing love isn’t that simple. In fact, he learns it requires much more than he ever expected.
“It’s found in the staying . . .” the greeting card message continues.
Jake Wilson stays. Even after his sweet Ida grows inappropriately suspicious, argumentative, and sometimes hateful. Even after her mysterious behavior turns her into someone he no longer recognizes. Even after her illness steals her ability to remember he is her spouse.
Jake stays considerate. He stays compassionate. He stays committed. He loves, honors, and cherishes his wife through the darkest of days.
But he’s a fictional character! He can do whatever I make him. Can real people love like that?
Last fall, I met a gentleman who could have been my inspiration for creating Jake Wilson, if only our paths had crossed earlier. In recent months, I’ve witnessed this man caring for his ailing wife of 55 years, brushing her silver locks with tenderness unexpected from such farmer’s hands, wheeling her with compassion to the breakfast table on days she couldn’t walk, lifting her with dignity onto a bedside commode after she lost the ability to attend to her own personal duties. Yet he never helped without first asking her permission–even when she could not recall his name.
A few days ago, I stood with my new friend beside his wife’s casket, her wispy hair brushed smooth, her slender hands folded at rest, her lovely face at peace. As his shoulders quaked in grief, my tears also rolled. I wept in sadness. I wept in awe.
For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for over half a century he offered his heart as our Creator intended us to do. With patience, with kindness, with perseverance. With love.
What Valentine’s gift can top that?
Let’s talk about love! Are you making plans to surprise someone special on February 14? Are Valentine’s gifts a tradition for you? What are some of the most memorable tokens of love you have given or received? Please share! Who knows? Maybe your ideas will help a fellow reader touch someone else’s heart this week!