My family is preparing for Valentine’s Day. My granddaughter has her L.O.L. Surprise valentines ready to hand out to her classmates. I’m sure our children are planning romantic evenings for their significant others. My wife and I will do something special. And we all look forward to February 15 when Valentine’s Day candy is on sale for half-price.
I must admit this Valentine’s Day has been hard for me. I know what this day also represents. But how do you tell your family you are mourning for people you never met who were killed on the other side of the country?
When the killer chose Valentine’s Day, he did the cruelest, most incel thing imaginable. He tore children from their parents, ripped couples apart, and turned a day of hearts and flowers into pain. He wanted to kill love.
And yet, that suffering community still shows love.
They show love by fighting for safer communities, holding to account those who allowed this to happen, and speaking out for change. They show love by using art and music to heal. They show love by sharing stories of the ones they lost. They show love by not allowing their children and teachers to be forgotten or to be labeled as martyrs, statistics, or victims. They remind us their loved ones were ordinary people we shared this world with for too short a time.
In doing so, they teach us what love is really about.
We love understanding that one day, those we love will part from us. Children will move away from home to start lives of their own. Grandparents, parents, teachers, and friends will pass away. And if we are fortunate, we will enjoy a long and happy life with our beloved until one of us slips peacefully into that eternal sleep.
Because we know our time together is limited, we need to appreciate every moment we can, make as many good memories as possible, and never take the people we value for granted. We must never miss a chance to say “I love you” because we never know when it would be the last.
When we understand the importance and urgency of love, we don’t hesitate to show that love to others. We show kindness to strangers and compassion to the suffering. We demand justice for the oppressed and exploited. We work to leave a better world for our children and grandchildren. We give more than we take.
We love because it offers our brief existence happiness and meaning. Without it, we cannot function as families, communities, or a civilization. Love mends rifts, resolves conflicts, and forgives mistakes. Love stayed the hand of destruction many times in our history. Love is the only thing that will save us.
So I mark Valentine’s Day with a heart that’s both heavy for suffering people I’ve never met and joyful for my family and the others I’m fortunate to have in my life. I recognize love’s strength and endurance, how it helps us cope with loss and appreciate the goodness in our lives. Even when someone wants to inflict cruelty and violence, you can’t kill love.