It was early in 1989; Maureen and I had been dating for a few weeks. In my post at the beginning of last October, I had written about my “triple-positive” in the midst of Maureen’s recent diagnosis of her breast cancer turning “triple-negative.” As I said in that CaringBridge post, “I’m now going to turn to what I call my triple-positive: meeting Maureen, proposing to Maureen and being married to Maureen, three of the best things in my life, up until the birth of our three kids.”
I had also written in that same post about how our love story began. “I figured that a dozen red roses arriving on Christmas Eve at her family’s home in Ridgewood might do the trick…” It did. And, 26 years ago on Groundhog Day, I had a crazy idea, an idea from the heart. Celebrating the twelve days of Christmas is a tradition known to many, as is the song born from it. Our daughter, Kyla, sang a version of this song with her middle school choir at a Holiday Concert at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School this past Christmas season. It was beautiful, even though I didn’t have my bride of 24 years by my side to listen with me. However, I am getting ahead of myself.
It is 12 days before Valentine’s Day in 1989, and I was courting the love of my life, Maureen. As I said in my post this past October, I knew I was going to marry Maureen, but I still had to convince her of the same idea! The dozen roses at Christmas started our journey, but it was time for another dozen. This time, however, the roses weren’t going to occur all at the same time. They were going to happen one at a time, for 12 days. I called it the Twelve Days of Valentines, and I had so much fun with it.
Rather than just bring a red rose to the office every day (we worked in the same Apple office), I decided to make it a treasure hunt, each day with a new clue. The first day was across the street from our office at a chocolate shop (my sweetie loved chocolate). I had stopped by the shop the day before to purchase a box of chocolates; told them that Maureen would likely stop by sometime during the day; and then had them put a note in the box with both a message of love, as well as the clue for the next day and the next rose and its special Valentine’s gift and message. This continued through February 13 with the final clue pointing Maureen to Chez Collette at the Hotel Sofitel near O’Hare in Chicago. I had made reservations there for our first Valentine’s together on February 14, and yes, I actually had a whole dozen roses waiting at the restaurant. The first of the 11 had gotten a little wilted over the 12 days, so a fresh dozen was in order.
I am crying as I write this because I won’t get to give my Maureen a Valentines this year. I miss her. I’ve missed her every day since she passed after her on and off 11 year battle with breast cancer. The tears flow as freshly down my face now as the morning I awoke by her side at Seton Hospital in Austin on the morning of October 21. She was no longer breathing, and it took my own breath away. Since the day I first saw her beautiful face at our Apple office, I have lived and breathed my love for Maureen. The day I first saw her took my breath away. I was stunned by her beauty. As I share in this special Valentine’s video, “she changed my life.” She continues to change my life. Our journey is not over. As the photo in this post, sent to me by a dear friend, makes clear, “a true love story never ends.” My love story with Maureen is not over. It continues. It continues not just because I see her in the faces and the hearts of each of our three children. It isn’t over because I still love her. Death can not take that away.
As I said at Maureen’s “celebration of life” on October 25, I have always believed in heaven, but I believe in it more deeply now than ever before. I have felt Maureen’s presence, her love. It was incredibly intense the morning after her passing. It is not as intense now, but it continues. She is my angel; she is the love of my life; I know I can’t “see” her anymore, but you know what. You can’t see love either. It is a connection between two people that is invisible. It is what we do that makes it visible. That is why I continue to write. As I said in my CaringBridge post on August 17, 2014, “Have you ever noticed that when faced by a tough disease, like cancer, suddenly all the stories become about the cancer? Not us?”
This remains our story, not cancer’s. This is a story of hope. This is a story of love. This is a story of the love of my life. “The genetics of love have beat the genetics of cancer.” As I say in my Valentine’s video for Maureen, “the most important connection between people is love.” Rather than make love visible on just this one day, I will continue to write to make visible my love for Maureen, my beautiful wife of 24 years, my best friend, the mother of our three children, my soulmate, my Valentine.