Caroline Gerdes
Updated February 14, 2015

My grandmother was always my favorite valentine. She loved all things heart-shaped (all year long), never forgot to send a valentine and always baked our favorite cookies for the holiday. It was the same recipe she used for our Christmas cookies, but, on Valentine’s Day, they were made into hearts with pink homemade icing. And, when we celebrated together, we usually watched something romantic in black and white. These lovely Valentine’s Days have never been topped by any romantic date.

When I lost my grandmother a couple of years ago, I learned that just because a person you love isn’t physically with you doesn’t mean they are gone. My Oma is with me every time I cook a meal she used to make, or in a movie that we once watched together, or in the mirror where my smile lines curve in a familiar way. I know my Oma will always be such a force in my life that she won’t ever be gone from it.

People do live on in your heart. But, it is also a welcome surprise to learn that they also live on in the physical world, in the things they left behind.

A few weeks after my grandmother’s passing, just before Valentine’s Day, I was cleaning out the desk in my childhood bedroom and I found an old valentine from my grandmother. It had a sweet, personal message expressing her love for me that I had taken for granted years before when I first read the note. After all, she always told me she loved me when we were together. But upon rereading the card, the message resonated in a new way. Just as I still loved her, she still loved me — in her handwriting, on a valentine.

The letter also included a $20 bill that I can’t bring myself to spend. I keep it somewhere safe and imagine what my Oma would like me to buy. It’s my grandmother’s last gift to me and I want it to put it to good use on a purchase she would approve of, like a sassy new dress or something sweet to eat.

As cheesy as candy hearts and candlelit dinners can be, it’s important to remember what the people giving the teddy bears and chocolate boxes mean to you. Look past romantic love and celebrate all significant relationships this Valentine’s Day. Think about everyone in your heart and don’t be afraid to show it with something silly and small. These little things may keep your loved ones smiling for longer than you imagined.