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Dr. Kestner: A special Valentine's Day salute

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Happy St. Valentine’s Day, everybody!

Whether you are in love today or not, it’s a great day to celebrate the relationships in your life.

I am blessed tremendously to have two special sweethearts in my life: my wife, Ginny, and our young daughter, Ellie.

Although there are thousands of cards available that have cute, mushy, funny or sincere sentiments printed inside, I haven’t found one that can adequately describe my feelings for them. Although I have found some sweet messages, my response is always the same. “That’s nice,” I think, but it doesn’t really express how deeply I care for them.

I appreciate another relationship this Valentine’s Day; with my stepson, Anthony. Anthony will mark his 18th birthday this week, and soon be graduating from high school.

I’m very proud of Anthony. He has accomplished a lot during the past few years, and has grown into a strong, thoughtful, kind, generous, and enjoyable young man. If he were in your family, you would be proud of him, too.

Anthony made a courageous decision last week. He took the oath to become a United States Marine. This wasn’t a sudden decision. He has planned on becoming a Marine for as long as I have known him.

Knowing the seriousness of this decision, I questioned him repeatedly during the past few years about his expectations and the reasons that he wants to be a Marine. He never wavered in his dedication to be able to fight for and defend his country. To Anthony, it seems only right that each of us should be willing to do something to serve this great nation. If you knew Anthony, you would feel honored knowing that he and many other bold young men and women are willing to make such a sacrifice for you and me.

I plan on celebrating a while with my very first sweetheart, Mom. She has dementia now and the time I spend with her will be bittersweet. I love to see her each time I get a chance, and am saddened knowing that she cannot function in the way that she would want. She spent her life providing and caring for her children and her husband, offering nurturing support and a loving embrace.

She is a fantastic cook. Normally, she would be serving up some of the finest food imaginable to every guest that graced her home. Although she is unable to carry on with her traditions as in the past, her eyes still light up with joy when she sees her “all-grown-up baby boy” enter the room.

She often has trouble recalling that my dad passed away recently, so she feels the loss each time she remembers. They were married for more than 60 years. In her words, “I can’t imagine life without him.”

If Dad were here, he would give her a big card and flowers. But, like me, the card would be inadequate to express the depth of his feelings. He loved her dearly. I was deeply touched the first time I read a love letter he had sent her from overseas during the war. He lived much longer with chronic illness than some would have expected because he loved his wife so much and wanted to care for her as long as humanly possible.

I’ll make a call to my brother today. We don’t see one another often but we talk several times a week by phone. He probably would not want me to refer to him as a Valentine, so I’ll just mention that he and I share a close relationship. I can’t remember a conversation with him that didn’t close with “I love you.” Recalling several intense, competitive battles of our youth, that seems like a miracle.

These are the love stories that I honor on this day. These relationships are the core of my life. Without the love of each of these people in my life, the experience would not be as rich.

I hope you have a great Valentine’s Day and enjoy celebrating all the relationships that make you who you are.

Next week: One lady’s unique method to reduce stress… guaranteed to be effective!

Dr. Mark Kestner
Read more from:
Dr. Mark Kestner, Living Well, Voices
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