Valentine's Day: something sweet, something sad

Has a red flashing light been going on and off in your head in recent days? That's your heart reminding you that tomorrow is Valentine's Day and to make sure you have properly prepared to celebrate the day honoring love.

I'm struck by how this day, bedazzled in red, could have had such a bloody incarnation, but it did. The day was named after a martyred priest named Valentine, who defied the emperor's ban on marriage in order to build his armies by secretly marrying young lovers.

He was tossed in jail, then beheaded. Before he died, it's said he sent a note to a woman who had befriended him simply signing it "from your Valentine."

In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius declared Feb. 14 St. Valentine's Day. That was 1,523 years ago.

There is something comforting about knowing Valentine's Day has held its own in a world that tends to remember important historical dates on the basis of wars — American Revolution, War of 1812, Civil War, World War I and II, etc., as American examples.

The day also is when vile incidents happened. Last year, 17 students and teachers were murdered by an assault weapon-wielding gunman at Parkland, Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School.

I met an MSD family last spring. One of their two sons, a freshman, was in the building where the killings occurred. His mom tells a chilling story about her frantic search for him and how she felt not knowing if he was alive or dead as she raced to his school. No mom should ever kiss her child goodbye in the morning then wind up a few hours later tearfully begging police officers or hospital officials to help her find her child. Try to wrap your brain around that.

We have stayed in touch and I watch on social media as she and others in her tight-knit community react to the upcoming one-year anniversary tomorrow.

I'm happy when I see them post photos from birthday and holiday celebrations. However, I also see and hear sadness lurking nearby. The kids and teachers who died have now missed a birthday, holidays and a second Valentine's Day.

Some have channeled their grief into advocacy in support of "sensible gun laws." The Parkland murders made a lot of people see red well past February. Millions of Americans hit the streets in support of MSD survivors' March for Our Lives in March 2018. Locally, students in Avon Lake, Sheffield-Sheffield Lake, Westlake and Rocky River walked out of their classrooms in support of their peers.

Initially, there was a groundswell of political and citizen support to tighten gun laws. One in particular seemed to have — and still seems to have — public support. It's called Red Flag law. Federal and Ohio legislators have largely avoided taking substantive action and it's time to ask them why they haven't.

Red Flag law is about giving the courts the ability to issue an order allowing law enforcement to remove guns when a person has been adjudged a threat to himself/herself or others. It makes no sense to me that this common-sense law is not in effect already.

I am grateful the kids in my family, the kids I taught and worked with at the university and in nonprofit organizations and the kids in the school districts I cover for the paper have not become victims of violence. I'll happily cruise the card aisles, buy some red-wrapped gifts and say a quiet prayer of thanks for that miracle.

I may even show some love for my Boston cousins who have become a little insufferable since two weekends ago. It'll be fun to see what next Valentine's Day could bring — like a big ring for a guy named Baker and a team we'd pack the streets of downtown Cleveland to cheer. Just in case it takes another year or so for that to happen, I'm content with anything that contains chocolate. Happy Valentine's Day. I hope it's sweet for you.

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