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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why I can never have a bad Valentine's Day


Precious Hears Bouquet FTD.com

Something happens to me at this time of the year and no it's not the giddy anticipation of a commercially infused holiday, although most all of them are commercialized anymore, no what happens is that I get frustrated.  I get frustrated at all the women out there who demand Engagements #waituntilheisready Diamonds #costtoomuchmoney, Dozens of Flowers #overpriced, Chocolates #whichmakeyoufatanyways, and "Gallant expressions of Love" from men who would otherwise #scratchtheirbuttsandbelch and when they don't get these things or don't receive them in the way *they* wanted, they then say they had a *bad* Valentine's Day.


These women, and yes I was included in that bunch once upon a time, get all worked up when their men don't publicly profess their love in the most ridiculous and commercialized ways.  In the grand scheme of life this *one* day is not what matters, it's the rest of them that do.  So instead of demanding grand gestures on this Valentine's Day, take it from a girl that knows about *real* bad Valentine's Days and count your lucky stars you've never experienced one of those.


I still have that vest
11 years ago a wonderful woman moved on from this world into the greater beyond when she lost her battle with breast and ovarian cancer.  Maggie Kling was her name and she was one hell of a lady.  I had the pleasure of being a part of her family when I dated her son, Greg, for about 2 and a half years during college.  I'll never forget the evening I met her.  We'd been dating for about 6 months maybe when he took me to the "OP" to meet his folks and his sister, Becki.  Oh I was nervous.  Greg was my first college, serious boyfriend and I wanted to make a good impression.  #Ishouldneverhaveworried.  Maggie welcomed me with a huge smile and open arms.  Never had I felt so instantly and totally included in someone else's family.  Before I knew it I was driving to OP to hang with Becki and Maggie before Greg got there.  Manicures, pedicures, my introduction to acrylic nails; my obsession with Old Navy, my short hairstyle, and my first encounter with breast cancer were all thanks to her.  Such fun times and such great memories of shopping with the girls: salmon caesar salads, diet coke with lemon, watching Becki cheer, movies in the basement, Easter at the grandparents, Thanksgiving with their relatives, and dinner at The American.

Thanksgiving 1999
We'd only been dating about a year when the breast cancer came back.  If memory serves, (Becki and Greg, if you read this *please* correct any of my inaccuracies caused by fuzzy memory) she was first diagnosed when Greg was 15, we dated when we were 19-21 if my math & memory are correct, so it reared it's ugly head again when he was 20 or so.  I remember thinking that I had #absolutely*no*idea what to do or how to handle the news when he told me, so I apologize profusely for whatever memory you have of that moment if it was less than supportive.  


David, Me, Maggie
Over the course of time I watched what the cancer did to her.  While I never attended a treatment of hers, she did talk about them with me (usually while I massaged her feet *laugh* or when we got our nails done) and I saw what they did to her.  She was fantastically brave and incredibly strong to endure the treatment course they had her on.  Now in hindsight having gone through my *own* battle with the stupid disease do I really understand what that was doing to her.  How she must have felt.  How tired and sick she must have been, more so than me I'm sure as hers was a more aggressive cancer that metastisized as ovarian cancer and ultimately took her life 11 years ago.  

Yet she still maintained that wonderful smile, grace, and loving warmth that radiated from her in palpable waves and touched everyone who crossed her path.  


When she went into the hospital it was #surreal.  She was so small in that big bed, surrounded by even larger bouquets of flowers.  #MenorahHospital.  I could still drive that route in my sleep I bet, and I'd wager my feet would find their way to the room she was in.  This became the reason I hated hospitals.  The smell, the food, the lights, and the sounds.  Passing rooms with doors ajar to reveal people just laying there looking dead or moaning with pain.  Doctor's and nurses checking orders and administering pain meds to ease the discomfort.  People smiling sympathetically at you, and you at them, as you pass each other in the hallway.  The universal understanding of a wounded soul grappling with the knowledge that a loved one either just had major surgery or is about to pass from their life forever.  
Mastectomy Oct. 15th, 2010





I'm better about it now having been in and out of one quite a bit during my own journey, but I still don't like them.  






Ultimately the cancer won, and Maggie became the true angel we all knew her to be on earth.  The funeral was beautiful and the outpouring of love was tremendous.  I'll never forget riding in the car with Greg and Becki, looking back at the line of cars that stretched so far it was through an intersection and stopping traffic.  "Just like mom to cause a ruckus" was Becki's retort and we all laughed. #Itwastrue

A couple of days later It was Valentine's Day and it just didn't seem important.  I don't even remember what happened.  Greg and I probably went out to dinner and I probably got upset when I didn't get my fantasy flowers or a card, or whatever.  Or maybe he gave me flowers and a card, I have no idea because it wasn't important.  What was important was the fact that she was gone and the world had lost a great woman.  
 

Life continued and we had to go with it.  Greg and I went our separate ways, Becki graduated from HS, Greg and I graduated from college, he started moving around, I got married, then Becki got married.  Her wedding was one of the most touching, heartfelt and beautiful weddings I have ever been too.  Tim and I had been married for about 6 months at the time of Becki's wedding and I hadn't seen Greg for quite a few years.  I was shocked to see him with a head full of hair!  It's a good look for him ;)  Anyways, after an emotionally charged ceremony, we went on over to the OP Convention Center for the beautiful reception.  The place was decked out in fancy centerpieces, soft lighting, a dance floor and DJ, and of course an open bar (Thanks David!). 


Becki and Jeff
The reception followed the same general format that most do.  Arrival and announcement of bridal party and the newly married couple.  Some greetings and cheers, then usually food followed by the obligatory dances except they did one better.  Instead of the traditional bridal party dance, Becki instead spoke of her mom and how while she wished that she could be there she knew she was watching from above, and nothing would make her more happy than to have anyone and everyone who had been touched by her in their life to come celebrate that life on the dance floor to Maggie's favorite song, one that she said was written for her *laugh* "Maggie May" by Rod Stewart.  I danced with Greg and celebrated not only Becki's marriage to a wonderful man, but the life of a wonderful woman who had touched the lives of many.




Over the years I have visited her grave whenever I feel the need to feel her presence and hear her voice.  Never did I need that more than the day I was diagnosed with #breastcancer.  Shortly after Tim arrived home to hold me and share in our life shifting news, I felt the need to go for a drive.  I just wanted to be alone with my thoughts and the breeze in the windows.  I had no idea where I was headed, or when I'd be back, but Tim understood so with a hug and a kiss he watched me go.  I got in the car and pulled out of the drive. 

I hit the highway with nothing but the sound of the wind through the windows as it dried the tears on my cheeks.  I turned onto 435South with no particular destination in mind as I stared out the window trying to wrap my brain around the weight of the news I had just been given.  Before I knew it I was crossing into Kansas and was headed towards the cemetary.  I felt instinct take over as I drove towards her grave and got out of the car; there on the rise, under the pine tree by the chime tower she lays.  I brushed the grass off her headstone, and moved the pine cones out of the way so I could sit down next to her.  Resting my head on my knees I let go and let the rest of the tears flow.  I talked to her in my head and asked her to give me the strength, grace, and courage needed to get through this.  I also requested that she watch over me like never before and just like Becki, she did me one better.  

She sent Sue.  

First Chemo
On the day of my very first chemo, Sue was my nurse.  She walked into my cube and over to the sink to wash her hands while introducing herself.  I was instantly calmed by her voice, the motherly inflection, the soft tones.  Then she turned around and I got to see her face.  I swear on my life it was Maggie looking back at me.  She was a little shorter, and the hair was different but it was #her.  For the briefest of seconds that was like an eternity to me I saw that familiar smile and crinkle at the eyes that said "Everything is going to be all right, I'm here."  Then Sue began explaining the whole process from oral meds to chemo drugs, but then she touched my arm and #Maggiewasback.  The soft fingertips, perfectly manicured and sculpted fingernails painted in a soft pinky blush.  The diamond ring, and gold bracelets.  I never felt the needle go in.  I looked up into her face and saw the glimmer of a gold necklace as she winked at me, then she was gone but Sue was still there.

I will always be eternally grateful to Maggie and to Sue for getting me through my chemo.  Even though I didn't have Sue for every treatment, she always stopped by, and really I wouldn't have wanted to hog her all to myself.  Maggie gave me the strength needed to get through it and was there at the very first one, which was the scariest.  She needed to do the same for others, as did Sue.
 

ziamond.com
So on this Valentine's eve, I implore you to look past the social view of what this holiday is supposed to look like.  Instead of wanting expensive flowers, gifts, or dinners from your loved ones, why not want what they are already giving you?  Sure I would love some flowers and a beautiful card from Tim but if I don't get them, or if they're not what my fantasy has built them up to be that's okay because you know what?  He's already the best Valentine I could ever have, want, or need and he's already given me Valentine's gifts a million times over.  With every hug, kiss, laundry pile that's folded, dishwasher that gets started, back rub given, trash taken out, games of ball played and baths given to the dogs, and every other little day to day thing he does that tells me he loves me is my Valentine enough.  I can never have a bad Valentine's day because losing Maggie 11 years ago made me see what's really important about that holiday...the people that you love.    


 Happy Valentine's Day!


         

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for this. And the reason you don't remember that V-day is that it was the day of the funeral so none of us did anything that year. Love you! Becki

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  2. That's right. I knew there was a reason it seemed like that Valentine's didn't exist...because it didn't. Love ya too babe! I'm gonna invade your space for a couple days this summer. Let me know what looks good on your schedule!

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  3. oh and you're welcome. It was wonderful to think about her today and write about her. :)

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