“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
(1 Corinthians 13:13)
In our family, Valentine’s Day has been another day to show how much we love and appreciate each other. I had the good fortunate to celebrate 46 Valentine’s Days with my husband, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything at all. I mean, what could possibly feel better than celebrating love? My husband and I always made Valentine’s Day special in whatever way we could.
Our children grew up surrounded with love, and February 14 just gave us another opportunity to celebrate that love in some special way. Whether it was in the form of a homemade heart-shaped pizza or decorating a white sheet with colorful hearts to serve as a tablecloth, we were “all in” when it came to celebrating Valentine’s Day!
It’s different now. There are still expressions of love, but my Valentine is gone – he died of COVID-19 in December of 2020. Losing a loved one in the throes of a pandemic is very different than it is in ordinary times. During my husband’s hospitalization I wasn’t able to be with him in his room to hold his hand, encourage him to fight, to tell him I loved him, or to assure him that I would forever treasure every minute we had together. FaceTime is a poor substitute for comforting the love of your life for 40+ years, who is lying face down in a bed and on a ventilator.
Suddenly I was the widow of a COVID victim and I was quarantined for 2 weeks. That meant no hugs, no tears in the arms of family, and no public time for honoring my husband’s life. The casseroles, cold meat trays, fruit platters and baked goods that were delivered in the spirit of love and sympathy couldn’t be shared because now I was a party of one. Not only did I miss my husband, I missed being able to grieve and mourn with our children. After all, they had just unexpectedly lost their father. Grieving in isolation is just as painful as it sounds.
Our family was determined not to risk perpetuating the deadly virus that had basically robbed us at gunpoint, so we spent segments of time on our patio with an outdoor temperature of 12 degrees. There we sat, masks on, wrapped in scarves and blankets, six feet apart, snowflakes piling up around us and tears freezing on our cheeks as they fell. Definitely not like ordinary times.
I can clearly remember the expressions of love that my Valentine and I shared over the years, but every single day I struggle to understand why people don’t see wearing a mask, getting vaccinated or socially distancing as an expression of love for each other. My Valentine had a dying wish: that people would simply wear a mask correctly out of love for our neighbors. In the months before he died, we hoped and prayed for a vaccine to be made available and sadly he died just weeks before I got my first dose.
Our family continues to honor my husband with expressions of love to ourselves and others. We all wear our masks, we’ve been vaccinated and boosted, we get tested and isolate when we have symptoms and we’re all conscious of social distancing. We don’t want to get COVID, and just as much, we don’t want to transmit the virus to anyone at all.
Not to those we love: our family, our friends and coworkers, and not to complete strangers who work as grocery store clerks, teachers, wait staff, coaches or plumbers. There are no 100% guarantees, but when you actively protect others from an illness, or worst of all death, you express most powerfully all three: faith, hope and love. Faith in medical science, hope for our future together, and greatest of all, your love.
Jackie Perchinski is a lifelong resident of Williamsport, as was her husband, Bud (Walter). Together they have two daughters, two sons-in-law and four grandchildren who miss their favorite Valentine very much.