“NO VALENTINE’S SWEETHEART THIS YEAR, MY DEAR?”

It was one of those days. The weather was cold and cloudy. To make things even worse, it was Valentine’s Day, she was single again and everyone at work seemed to be discussing plans and gifts for their loved ones. Claire wanted to avoid the topic and so she rushed to check on her favourite resident at the home for the elderly where she worked as a nurse.

Maria was a very old lady who was well known for her radiant smile. Upon finishing checking Maria’s blood pressure, a knock was heard at the door. Claire opened the door and in came a delivery man with a massive bouquet of lovely roses, a box of chocolates and a Valentine’s card for Maria.

Claire could not believe her two eyes. She felt happy for Maria having received all those gifts from someone who loved her. But deep down, her instinctive sorrow of loneliness came upon her. Why was it that she – a young girl in her prime got nothing from no one? She tried to hide away her thoughts but Maria smiled as she read Claire’s sadness.

“No Valentine’s sweetheart this year, my dear?” Maria asked the young girl inquisitively yet lovingly. “Who would want to send me gifts, Maria? I suck when it comes to relationships,” Claire sighed and laughed half-heartedly.

“I see,” grinned the old lady pensively. There was a short pause of silence between them. Then Maria broke the silence with her gentle voice. “Read that card for me, will you dear? I can’t seem to find my glasses, anywhere” she asked, as she handed the envelope to the young nurse.

“Are you sure? I mean it’s probably really personal, Maria!” enquired the young nurse. “Oh it’s alright, my dear…I think I know who it’s from. It’s not like there are a lot of Romeos around in here for me!” giggled the old lady. “Go on! I’m curious now!”

So Claire did as requested, she tore the envelope gently and opened the card. The handwriting was shaky as she expected but written with passion. “I LOVE YOU, MARIA. YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL AND GREAT COMPANY!”

“Who’s it from, Claire?” Maria asked excitedly with beaming eyes. Claire looked at the bottom of the card to see who the mysterious lover was. But for a moment, Claire had to read the sender’s name twice. It was signed by no other than Maria herself! Maria had sent all of those things to herself … the card … the chocolates … the flowers! But why? Was she losing her mind at her age?

Before Claire could speak, Maria stood up slowly and held her hand. “My sweet child” she whispered as she looked into her eyes, “How can you love someone and share your love with that person if you haven’t learnt to love and appreciate yourself first?”

Claire looked confused. Maria made her point. “Ever since my husband passed away, I have learnt to love myself and be happy in my own company first. It wasn’t easy at all, for I loved him so much. And I still do. But life goes on and I have taught my heart and mind to appreciate and love who I am and I them. Hence – my gifts to myself.”

Tears rolled down her cheek and Claire stared at Maria and hugged her as she gently cried. “Love yourself first, child” whispered Maria as she let go of Claire and walked towards the unopened gifts.

As she wiped her tears, Claire could see Maria unwrapping and opening the box of chocolates. “Come child” smiled Maria “let me share my gifts of flowers with you … and above all … this lovely chocolate!” as she giggled and offered Claire a chocolate.