This Is What It’s Like To Fall In Love With A Terminally Ill Person

This Is What It’s Like To Fall In Love With A Terminally Ill Person
Ben White

Love is not a feeling; it is an existential question.

They say we as a people are doomed to be able to love, to be able to let our hearts be that Atlas holding up the celestial sphere, with no choice but to yield the burden. They say Atlas was cursed.

Me? I am doing just fine with my innate tendency to fall for broken people with a purpose of fixing them, then coming out of the web broken myself. When you fall in love with a terminally ill person, it isn’t really like falling. You wouldn’t find yourself falling instantly for the charm in their eyes or for the electricity you feel when they trace their fingers on the back of your spine. Because if you are a hopeless romantic like that, you wouldn’t find yourself falling for a terminally ill person anyway.

A terminally ill person is like art. They may not look pretty to you and their bundle of mess will always be one more to add to the ninety-nine problems in your life. But like art, they will always make you feel something. You will not find yourself falling for their sense of humor because you will be too preoccupied marveling at their resilience. So when they open up to you about how dismayed they are about life, you will want them to have all the love in the world because maybe the president never promised equal opportunities for everyone and maybe nobody said it was easy, but no one ever said it would be this hard and something that each one of us gets to have in life is hope, hope that even if things look dark right now we have too many tomorrows left to us for a statistically significant expectation of happiness and they, the terminally ill people, don’t get to have that. It is always going to be Carpe Diem for them, even if the reality is worse than a tomorrow that brings oblivion.

I am not telling you there will be no romance. But when your lips meet theirs for the first time and you find yourself feeling the peaking euphoria that accompanies first kisses, they will wince. You will find them grunting in pain when your hands touch parts of their skin which are covered with scars and stitches from critical operations, and eventually you will realize that you are not making love to just another person. You are making love to a person so delicate you wouldn’t know if their heart can make it through another day because their sickness is infused in every joint and no matter how much you try to make up for it with love, you will never be able to save them from the cold nights when their disease hurt them so bad in the chest it was as if a fat lady with heels was standing on top of it. You will not be able to mend them. Medical science will always be third-wheeling. But you will be able to make holding on worth it for them.

Your life will feel like a House M.D. or Breaking Bad episode, or maybe a whole fucking The Fault In Our Stars movie. You will be brave enough to build on your love story nevertheless because you have been selfless enough to love a terminally ill person. And if a terminally ill person falls in love with you, it will not be just another love—it will be an August Love.

If a terminally ill person falls in love with you, they will write to you. They will write to you every day, in pain and in hopelessness, and they will stock it all away secretly for you to read when they’re gone. When you open your morning eyes as you lie beside them you will find them writing. The night was sleepless. And when you come in to randomly check on them, you will find them writing, writing whole goddamn journals to all the people they love, which they will never show to you because, mind you, they don’t get to have the privilege of giving away all of their time to just one person in their life, mainly because they don’t have a lot of it.

It ain’t the bleeding that finally kills you, it’s the hope. The failing use of their left hand because of the failing use of their heart will not let them feel your touch when you put your hand over their bluish palm to tell them it’s going to be OK, and when they are closest to the moments before they go to hell (they will always think they are going to hell for leaving you hanging alone in the world like that), they will tell you that their last wish would be to have a post office in hell.

But in all of their brokenness, they will still be the most beautiful thing to happen to you, and your love story will still be art to you. You are going to make it art, you are going to immortalize it. Remember, it is going to scar you in a way. Because when you grieve and move on to a new person, you are going to hear the wincing echo in your ears when you have your new first kiss. You are going to forget what it is like to have a relationship where every moment you don’t have to cross your heart and hope to die. But let me tell you, it is not going to matter. Because now in your life, you are not going to settle for anything that is short of the art you have already had. Throw me in the water, don’t think about the splash I will create. To you now, sadness is goddamn art, and misery is better than boring. Because if you are capable of falling in love with a terminally ill person, love is a concept that spells only selflessness to you. And I don’t know if that is a good thing.

Everyone says destroy the thing that destroys you, right? So what if the thing destroying you is yourself?

Because as I tried to fix a soul with these plastered hands of mine, something inside me whispered, “You’re 18, my God you’re just 18.”

And if you fall in love with a terminally ill person, it will never be a happy ending for you. TC mark

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