Ah February…and Hallmark mass produced love is in the air. Do I sound cynical? I don’t mean to…it’s just that I don’t know that we need a day or a month dedicated to telling the people we love how much we love them. Shouldn’t we be doing that, and showing that by our actions every day? However, since it is February, I’ll set the tone of the month with a love story that truly, I think, reflects that all we do centers around God.
A high school boy and girl met right before World War II. They dated, fell in love and got married on Valentine’s Day. He went to fight in the Pacific, she moved back in with her parents. Thankfully, the war brought him home safely to her and they began their lives together. I know there were joys and sorrows; losses for the family, and three beautiful children who were their parents pride and joy. And always, there was faith. She stayed home to care for the family and he became a firefighter. They found a way to put their three children through Catholic school from kindergarten onward. They went to church on Sundays. There were trips to Wildwood and visits from cousins and shopping at Journal Square in its heyday. When time allowed, he went back to college to earn a degree. There were handmade communion dresses for nieces and nephews, and dollhouses built from kits and first cars and weddings for their children and then grandchildren.
And always, I say again, there was faith. For amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life, they managed to help found a parish in Jersey City. He studied and became a permanent deacon and she studied right along with him. They led baptism classes for the new parish and helped with Pre-Cana retreats. He baptized all of his grandchildren and even two of his great-grandchildren. He handed his eldest granddaughter the Eucharist at her First Holy Communion, as she stood before the altar in a dress handmade by her grandmother. God was everywhere; not just in their lives for an hour on Sundays, but he existed right along beside them, from their first meeting and for the rest of their lives. Their love was so strong, so beautiful to all who witnessed it, because it was constantly sustained by their belief in God.
On Valentine’s Day in 1996, God called her home; 54 years to the day that He blessed their marriage. And yet, their love story lived on; in his eyes, in his voice as he talked of her, and in his still sustained faith even in the face of the loss of his beloved, that she was with God and someday he would see her again. He waited a long time; until October of 2019….23 long years of Christmas parties and Easter celebrations and daily mass without her by his side. 23 Valentine’s Days passed; with flowers on her grave instead of in a vase in the kitchen. And yet, each family member those who remembered their courtship and those who never knew her personally knew that in this family, there was never a love story as beautiful as theirs.
It’s my family of whom I speak. My maternal grandparents, whose love existed daily for me from the moment of my birth and that still inspires me today. And so, this month of February is special to me this year, because in my heart I know, that after 23 years of waiting, with God’s abiding love, they are together again, to celebrate not only Valentine’s Day, but their eternal wedding anniversary. I have faith in that, I believe that with all of my heart, and I hope, as we begin to celebrate the month that rejoices in love in all its forms, that God brings that same love into your lives in one way or another.