Valentine’s Day 2018

Holidays and celebrations are particularly difficult for people grieving the loss of a loved one. When our son, David Finkelman, was killed at the age of 27, our lives changed forever. This is an excerpt from my diary. I refer to David’s girlfriend as “M.”

Wednesday, February 14, 2018:

Valentine’s Day. We were hit by freezing rain overnight. This morning, I inched along behind the dog, my crampons all but useless on the smooth, glassy streets.

The snow danced wildly around me, whipped into a frenzy by the north wind. I was blinded by a veil of whiteness. Blinded by the white. Blinded by the light.

Valentine’s Day. Suddenly, I was remembering Valentine’s Day 2014. It came just weeks after David was struck and killed in a crosswalk. The bleakest of times. We were zombies, moving through a world we no longer recognized. Blinded by the darkness.

“We need to get M a Valentine’s card from David,” I said to Steve. We went to Walmart, found a sweet one. We stood in the cash line. The store was gaudy in its shameless promotion of the occasion. There were heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, red candies, magazines that promised to make this the most romantic Valentine’s Day ever.

I felt disconnected from it all. In the deepest corner of my mind I believed David’s absence was temporary. He’d be back soon. He’d make it up to M for missing this day.

It was snowing when we took the card to David and M’s house that evening. A highway of bootprints led through the unshovelled walkway to the front door. I drew comfort from it. M was not alone. She had the support of her community.

We sat in the kitchen. It was cluttered. Dishes and empty take-out containers on the counter. David’s trenchcoat hanging on a hook by the back door. I wanted to bury my nose in it, wrap myself in his scent.

A valentine was pinned to a cork board on the wall. It was a sparkly grouping of puzzle pieces M had formed into the shape of a red heart. One piece in the centre of the heart was missing. On the kitchen table, a single rose, black and withered, drooped in a vase. M said David had given it to her in January.

I handed her the card. We’d placed a lock of David’s hair inside. I’d snipped it from the back of his head when he was in the coffin. I was careful. I knew he wouldn’t want it to look like a bald spot.

We’d written something on the card. I can’t remember what. Something to the effect that while David could not give her a card, we were giving her one for him.

Her eyes filled with tears. We hugged. Nothing much to say, really.

After a short while, we left. Out into the dark and the snow. Following the highway of bootprints back to our car.