Sunday, February 13, 2011

love isn't always red tissue

I remember our first Valentine's Day.

We were tentatively doing the long distance dating dance across two thousand miles and we aren't poster children for great communication.

My mom elevates the great pink and red holiday to quite an occasion. . . little tissue wrapped gifts at each place during breakfast and of course everyone must wear the appropriate colors.

I'm not really sure Daniel even knew the significance of February 14.

That first year together (and I use that term very loosely) I was away from home, staying for a week as a live-in nanny with a military family that were (and still are) great friends of mine.

I still remember where I was standing in their house when their phone rang.

"It's for you." Janie hisses at me, with a crazy smile on her face. . . "I totally think it's Daniel!"

I  stand in stocking feet on the hardwood floor in their dining room, looking out the window at the white fields and brittle branches of winter, then down at the phone in my hand.

"Hello, it's Hayley," I say.

Hey. . .  {deep voice} hi. . . yep, it's him.

"Hey! What's going on? Are you at work or at school?"  {This was early enough in our relationship that I had no clue what his schedule was, much less whether or not he loved me.}

So it seems that I have botched Valentine's Day pretty bad. . . he continues and my heart flips. (Hello, heart, he is acknowledging the Great Holiday Of Love.)

. . .and it must be kind of a big deal to you, so I feel really bad that I just totally missed it and I just wanted to call you and tell you that you are really special to me.  I can't talk long cuz I'm at work but I just wanted you to know that.

I try to calmly wrap up our conversation without saying anything too stupid and when we disconnect Janie and I shriek with endless speculation the rest of the day.  I think he loves me.  Do you think so? What are your wedding colors again?

I found out later that my future mother-in-law had just happened to call my mom that day and Mom mentioned what the morning had entailed, probably mentioning the cherries on top of the french toast and the flowers Dad had just sent.  It didn't take my mother in law long to phone her son at the fire department and clue him in to the cultural differences between our two families.

But that was almost ten years ago and we've enjoyed many fun dates and flowers and chocolates since that awkward phonecall.

Love is so not about the flowers this year.

Right now I battle to know what love means to my husband.

I want to love him the way he needs to be loved.

I don't always know what that looks like.

When your world turns upside down, you change.  Your whole outlook changes.  You aren't the same person anymore.

In a marriage that's kind of scary.

Who is she, he wonders and who is he, she cries.

Initially most couples cling so tightly to each other.  They desperately grasp one thing that they know for certain. . . each other.  That frantic clinging lasts for awhile, and in some couples just stays.

Yay for them.

But for us  (just being painfully honest, here) . . . the differences in the way we grieve, in the way we process, in the way we view each other and God. . . gave way to confusion and distance. . . pushing each other away so that we wouldn't hurt any more than we were already hurting.




Physical ache.

Receiving our son's autopsy report.

Oh we aren't madly in love.

Drowning out the pain in work.

Crying in the bathroom at events.



Missing each other.

Oh how not sweet our marriage is!

God intervened in our marriage in a big way by sending us away, far away and pouring out His love on us in such a safe environment.  We realized there, that we needed each other still. . . that neither of us could make it better. But we could hang on and not let go.

I think that's where we are now. . .

We're hanging on and not letting go.

I think of Daniel's tentative phonecall all those years ago. . .

. . . reaching out. . .

. . .showing that little glimmer of kindness and love. . .

. . . and my woman's heart, ever optimistic in matters of love, opens wide to those tentative steps.

What can my tentative step be?

Being a safe place for my man. . .

For once, being strong for him.

Maybe realizing it's not always about me.

What if it's just shutting my mouth?

Maybe telling him that even when life is cold and hard and cruel there's still no one I'd rather walk with than him.

That's a little different than chocolate and hot dates and red tissue wrapped gifts; but it's what love looks like this year.

I'm hanging on, Daniel. . . so glad God gave you to me.


  1. Hayley,
    I've had the privilege of knowing you since you were a young girl. I don't know if you have ever seen the Hallmark movie "Sarah: Plain & Tall". The young girl & boy in the film, Anna & Caleb, always reminded me of you & your brother Caleb. The sweet, nuturing, loving spirit exhibited in the "Anna" of the story was you in the flesh. To see you grow, blossom & mature over the years has been a blessing to those around you, as God has been molding and shaping, you, His child. How the heart ached for you & Daniel that morning in May when we received the news of your loss. Many prayers have been lifted on your behalf, even when there was a loss of words not being able to comprehend what you were experiencing. Thank you for sharing a part of your self & heart on this blog. There have been tears, smiles, and prayers shared with you. The things learned & shared here have ministered to others as we see a glimpse of God's working & the truths that apply to each & every situation or circumstance we all face. Thank You! Love & Prayers, Ella S.

  2. Oh Hayley,
    You write so beautifully and say exactly how I am feeling sometimes. Sounds like we are both reminiscing tonight. Thank you for your words. They are so true. I think alot of times we just hear about the people that are sharing once they are at the point where they are stronger in their marriage and faith, and alot of times no one talks about how there are days where you don't know if you will survive. I am praying for you and Daniel. And all of the other couples this Valentine's Day that know the fear and pain of losing a child. Of all of the people in this world only you and Daniel know what it is to be Gabriel's mom and dad. Only Bob and I know what it is to be Tyler's parents. That is such a special connection. Thank you for sharing so honestly. It helps so many of us, and I am so thankful that I found your blog!God Bless you!

  3. wow. Touching post. That went straight to my heart. Thanks for taking the chance of putting it out there.....I appreciate what you said.

  4. I guess each relationship goes through such phases. And what you are doing is the best thing to do - Hang on and not let go.

    My prayers and good wishes are always with you and your family. Praying that you both are able to come as close as always.

    Love and hugs!

  5. This is so full of truth. Love it.

    Have a wonderful Valentines day Hayley and Daniel.

  6. love your honesty. Praying for you guys. Love you. Happy Valentines!

  7. "Maybe telling him that even when life is cold and hard and cruel there's still no one I'd rather walk with than him."
    I love this Hayley....I was cheering in my heart for you...when I read this part of your entry....and...^^^Amanda's comment (above) is SO rich. Yes, you have changed and so has he...praying for your continued journey together!

  8. Thank you for sharing your heart. You write with such honesty and vulnerability and it's really touching. How true is it that grief changes things...and can be such a challenge when we as wives and our husbands grieve differently and respond in such different ways. So thankful that the Lord never stops working in and through our lives.

  9. Thank you for being so real and honest....beautiful post.
    Hope you had a lovely Valentine's Day.