The story was a poignant one. Valentine's Day was in the offing and the secular press always assigns some poor soul to call around and find out just how much a bunch of red roses costs, what is the newest in designer chocolates this year, which restaurants were offering romantic meals (menus included).
We would sigh and duck when the assignment editor looked up with that task in her hand.
But one year, our conversation about Valentine's Day took a different turn. A group of us were chatting about being in grade school and the anguish of who would send us valentines and the delicious moment when a sweet card, unsigned, would appear on our desk and set one's heart a flutter.
One reporter's voice broke up our reverie.
"I never got one valentine, not one."
We all went silent. She swept her hand across the surface of her clean desk.
"My desk would be bare. Not one valentine."
The cruel memories froze her face.
"Why?" we all asked almost at once.
Usually a reserved colleague, she told of us of growing up in a small town. Her father was a bit of a ne'er-do-well and the family, although her mother worked in the local hospital and the children did well in school, were outcasts in the community.
We fell silent and some of us rushed to point out what she has now – a husband who was smitten with her, a baby, a job she liked. But to no avail. She stood up and walked away.
The remembrance of being rebuffed, feeling unloved was still tucked away somewhere in her heart.
Yes, Valentine's Day has come and gone for another year. All those cards, candy, stuffed teddy bears were supposed to be tokens of love.
But what is love?
So many of us have an empty pewter box within our soul. Cold. It is the place where love is supposed to dwell. We never tell anyone about the ache – maybe not even ourselves.
Yes, love between two devoted, faithful human beings walking the same life path is the typical ideal answer. But there are other kinds of love that just might fill even a corner of that wretched empty box.
Love yourself. Buy a blank hard-cover journal and start writing about what you want to do with the rest of your life. Some misname it and call it a bucket list. This instead is what you really want to do.
The way to test the verity of this is to say to yourself, "When I am two days away from heaven, this is what I want to have done with my life."
Live in harmony with your world. Hard to do when society is on a rollercoaster and Mother Nature is whacking us a good one. It's just like the race car driver who was teaching me how to drive on ice saying, "Look ahead at where you are going. It's just like life. Keep on looking ahead."
That car? It's your body, your temple. Water it. Make friends with the farmers' market downtown. Find your body keepers – a dentist and physician who listen.
Like your job? No? Do something about it. Career counselling. Going back to school? Hard work. Taking the risk of falling in love? Hard work. Going to a priest or therapist to chase away ghosts from the past? Hard work. Praying? Hard work. Saying good-bye? Some of the hardest work ever.
It is just as Father Bernard Blair said in a homily when he was once visiting the Marian Centre. "If you are going to transform, it takes hard work."
So easy to slough off these words. We can virtuously cite all sorts of excuses – we who are weak-willed call them reasons – to not make the changes that allow us to fall in love with life. Sure, these changes take time to grow.
But think of a rose bush. They can indeed be started by seed, just like our seeds of change. The nurturing is arduous, and one must be patient as it goes through its latent cold period, handling it so carefully as the fragile tiny seedling is moved to a growing pot. Then, with the right cultivating and soil, it grows, producing glorious blossoms and fragrance.
Isn't that what we want our life to be – beautiful, as lush as possible.
As our beloved Pope Francis says, "Life is a journey. When we stop, things don't go right."
(Lasha Morningstar firstname.lastname@example.org)