Valentines day, 2014, I laid in a hospital bed, tracing the veins in my mom’s hand as we listened to the beeps and whirls and turns of all the machines that were holding my body up and together. Her breath was tinted with cinnamon candy. I’d never been sent so many flowers before. It felt suffocating and perfumey– sympathy smells much different from seduction. Women in the community knit quilts for everyone who had to sleep in the hospital that month. Mine was stitched with yellow petals and I always take it on picnics.
Valentines day, 2015, Hunter showed up to my house early, with a box of donuts. We made waffles that day that were flooded by chocolate chips—an avalanche of chocolate chips—a downpour of chocolate chips. The first try we forgot to grease the iron, and were left with more-material-than-not clinging to the hot surface. We wrapped ourselves in white, soft sheets. Watched movies. Went to an art museum. Found somewhere to order fries. He gave me a projector that shone stars up onto my ceiling and a mug that cradled my earl grey and milk.
Valentines day, 2016, I dug my toes in the sand. The air was thicker than I could ever have imagined in Florida, and Lindsay was somehow even more beautiful, and more welcoming. We ordered expensive coffee drinks, soaked our feet in salty water. We biked to buy pizza. We went to her math class and did so many things to look back on and smile. After so much time apart, it already felt unimaginable to be away from her side, to sleep alone ever again.
Valentines day, 2017, I’m submerged in bed with a different mug, brimming with earl grey and milk. When I think about this month, and this day, and this lifetime, I feel so willing to give up everything that I’ve ever wanted for one very large favor from the universe. I don’t know how this works. I don’t think I have a relationship of reciprocity with any higher power. I’ve learned that no one ever owes you anything—let alone the place that you live. All this being said, I’m asking that we forget it all and find away to make Miss Hannah Hale smile and stand up and speak again,
If we could help her up as she held her arms open,
If we could send our heartful’s of hopefulness,
All our lovingness and loveability,
Our sweetest serendipity.
If we could take the goodness she has given to us and make it into medicine,
If we could turn kindness into healing,
And kisses into kingdoms.
If we could just make her better this Valentines day.
In times of unbelievable sadness, I am still, somehow, blown off my feet and backwards by the prevailing pull of love. This Valentine’s day I’m unsure of who picked out Hannah’s heart, who put it between her ribcage, and made it work the way it does. I’m unsure how she smiles while sliding into surgery. I don’t see how things like this can unfold. But this love—this family—this community of people gathered around her bedside, watching with bated breath and silent sobs and pleading prayers—these people are heavy enough to crash through the Earth’s mantel, but this sweet pull from the love of a heart with a hole in it keeps them aloft, floating so their feet don’t even touch the ground. There is a lightness we get from being in love. To feel something so wholly good and unabashed helps us be brave when the very world that gave us this love threatens to take it away. This love makes me disbelieve my own despair, gives me an inkling of unfounded hope in even the darkest of circumstances that things won’t be as bad as I believe.
Sweet Hannah, I don’t know what to say. You are full of lessons and of love and you have filled our lives with light. You pull us up when our hearts feel heavy enough to hold us down. Happy Valentine’s Day, sweet girl.