LAKE LOTAWANA, Mo. - On Valentine’s Day, many remember their firsts. The first with a sweetheart. The first celebrated as a married couple. Maybe the first one with children.
But how would you celebrate Valentine’s Day if you knew it was the last? We found it takes true love.
At Kansas City Hospice House, Norma Silvain sits close beside her husband, Phil. He’s been in hospice about a week and family members have flown in.
While other couples might exchange chocolate or flowers on this day, hospice provides a gift, too. The gift of time. Time to prepare. Time to say "I love you." And time to say "Goodbye."
Phil and Norma have said few goodbyes in their 63 years as man and wife. Sure, he went to work and they each volunteered with their favorite agencies, but when it came to other things, they did them together – even the shopping.
“Sounds funny,” Norma says with a smile. “But he liked to take me. He wouldn’t always go in the store, but he would take me.”
They raised two children in their Lake Lotawana home and enjoyed welcoming their five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Phil has been retired from AT&T for 28 years, and he and Norma spent the past 23 years in South Padre, Texas, every January and February. This is their first winter to stay home as the complications from pancreatic cancer finally caught up with Phil.
With Valentine’s Day here, Norma brought a favorite old T-shirt of Phil’s for him to wear. It reads South Padre Island and it’s red, of course. But Phil had a surprise for Norma, too. Despite not being too responsive over the past day or so, he still gave Norma her Valentine’s Day kiss.
“Well I just went up to him and I said 'Phil, may I have a kiss?' And he puckered up his lips and he gave me a kiss,” she said.
She said Phil wasn’t always huge on public displays of affection, but there was one special time. Last year on their anniversary, sitting in the stands at Kauffman Stadium for a Royals game, they looked up and found themselves on the jumbo-sized monitor over the outfield -- the Kiss Cam! To the delight of the crowd, and Norma, Phil leaned over and kissed her.
“Even after we got out in the parking lot, everybody was saying ‘Oh, we saw you on TV,’” she said.
As family and friends gather around Phil now to say their goodbyes, he’s remembered as someone who truly cared.
“He was happiest when he was doing something for his family, something for his friends or something for the community,” Norma said.
As Norma and Phil face this final journey together, Norma says Valentine’s Day is special, but the secret to love is not found in one February day.
“Every day was a nice day for us," she explained. "It really was.”
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