I Had A Stroke On Valentine’s Day
My pupils were fixed and dilated when I got to the ER. This meant my brain stem functions such as respiration and circulation were shutting down. An emergency craniotomy saved my life. It also saved the baby I was expecting, although he was not born for another two months.
This stroke of luck changed the way I look at what heretofore had been thought of as a silly holiday, and I think my new perspective could be useful to many who struggle to feel good at this time of year whether they are looking for love or hoping their existing love will live up to their expectations of expressing it.
My husband woke up that day in 1999 thinking his biggest problem was figuring out where to get me flowers. Instead, he found me in the guest room where I went to escape his snoring as I was 6 months pregnant and needed my sleep. I was complaining of a severe headache and couldn’t move my left side. I peed the bed.
“Orange juice,” I cried, as if a glass of juice would fix everything. It didn’t. This was the first day our 2 year old son climbed out of his crib as if he knew it was an important day to get up and out.
My husband quickly realized something was seriously wrong and called 911. He then called a neighbor to come get our 2 year old for the day.
If I had ever had romantic notions about what Valentine’s Day should be, I never looked at the day the same way again.
Instead, I celebrate the day as one to know that my son and I are lucky to be alive. I became acutely aware of how many people love me; albeit not necessarily romantic love.
The stroke was caused by a congenital defect in my brain that could have ruptured on any day of my life, or not. I chose to view the fact it happened on Valentine’s Day as a positive thing which brought a true celebration of love and life on that day every year since.
Wikipedia gives us the following story about the origin of Valentine’s Day:
Valentine’s Day, also called Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is celebrated annually on February 14. It originated as a minor Western Christian feast day honoring one or two early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine and, through later folk traditions, has become a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance and love in many regions of the world.
There are a number of martyrdom stories associated with various Valentines connected to February 14, including an account of the imprisonment of Saint Valentine of Rome for ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire in the third century. According to an early tradition, Saint Valentine restored sight to the blind daughter of his jailer. Numerous later additions to the legend have better related it to the theme of love: an 18th-century embellishment to the legend claims he wrote the jailer’s daughter a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell before his execution; another addition posits that Saint Valentine performed weddings for Christian soldiers who were forbidden to marry.
The Feast of Saint Valentine was established by Pope Gelasius I in AD 496 to be celebrated on February 14 in honour of Saint Valentine of Rome, who died on that date in AD 269. The day became associated with romantic love in the 14th and 15th centuries when notions of courtly love flourished, apparently by association with the “lovebirds” of early spring. In 18th-century England, it grew into an occasion in which couples expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”). Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards. In Italy, Saint Valentine’s Keys are given to lovers “as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart”, as well as to children to ward off epilepsy (called Saint Valentine’s Malady).
Saint Valentine’s Day is not a public holiday in any country, although it is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion and the Lutheran Church. Many parts of the Eastern Orthodox Church also celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day on July 6 in honor of Roman presbyter Saint Valentine, and on July 30 in honor of HieromartyrValentine, the Bishop of Interamna (modern Terni).
In modern times, many expect a grand demonstration of love from their significant other in the form of fancy dinners out and lavish gifts such as candy, flowers and jewelry. For others who are not coupled up at this time of year, they yearn to find someone to love or even just take them out or give them a gift.
But what if instead of buying into the commercialization of the day we simply focused on what love we do have. Someone loves you. It may not be the kind of love you wish for, but try to appreciate whatever love comes your way.
© Victoria Ponte 2021.