It was my first Valentine's Day without the love of my life since I was 18.
I found the Valentine card I sent to her two years ago. In it, I wrote: "I have never loved you more. You never cease to amaze me, amuse me, and captivate me."
As the sun came up on my first Valentine's Day alone, I realized I had a choice to make. I could either spend the day mourning what I had lost - or I could celebrate the decades I had with this remarkable woman. I chose the latter. I'm glad I did.
In the months since Karen went Home, I've found myself telling my friends, "Cherish her - while you can." Like the Bible says: "Teach us to number our hearts aright that we may apply our hearts to wisdom" (Psalm 90:12). Translation: make each day count, man!
Suddenly, one May day, I had no more days to cherish the great treasure of my life. Reflecting on our years - and days - together, I found myself jotting down four questions that I'd encourage every married man to ask himself.
1. What would she say is her biggest competition for my time and my attention?
Sports? My work? Facebook? The gym? My hobby? Being with the guys? Whether or not the Mister knows what it is, you can be sure the Mrs. does. Once you figure out the answer, then show her! That she's #1. Every time you intentionally put her ahead of her biggest competition, you are making her know how loved she is. You're cherishing her.
2. In what ways am I a better man because of her love and influence?
I've been thinking about that a lot in the past few months. I've been changed by the love of the woman I married. Most men are - in ways they may not see unless they honestly pursue this question. My wife was the most generous person I've ever known. I was a spoiled and selfish only child. That's one of many ways God used her to make me more of a man. I'm glad I told her that. So once you've thought about how you're different because of her love, tell her!
3. What are three qualities she has that I really love and appreciate about her?
We're pretty quick to think of the things that frustrate us. We communicate those pretty well. But what about the qualities, the actions that mean a lot to you? Thank her! Let's give "flowers" before the funeral - while they can still smell them!
4. If she was suddenly gone today, what would my biggest regrets be?
Oh, I've had plenty of time to think about that one in recent months. If you think about it while she's still by your side, you can change it! It's too late to say "I wish I had" or "I wish I hadn't" at a graveside.
Sometimes it can be hard to answer questions like these. Which may indicate a deadly condition. A hardening heart. Filling up with resentment, anger, bitterness, self-pity, self justification. And more than the problems or the conflicts, it's a hard heart that kills love.
Sometimes you don't feel the love. Those are the times to say, "God, I don't have it - but You do. You loved her enough to die on a cross for her. So if you'll send Your love for her through me, I'll make sure it gets delivered." Life's too short - and love's too precious - for a closed-up heart.
I love this hope-restoring promise from the Author of love: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26).
That "new heart" has saved many a marriage.
From my wounded heart to the heart of a guy like me out there - cherish the love of your life. There are no days to waste.