My dear friend and long-time editor, Beth, died last week after living through cancer for the last year. She was – well, she was my friend, and my editor, and as she often said, one of my biggest fans. We spent many hours talking about both grief and writing.
My last email to her, after she shared the news of her latest scans, was to talk to her about After. Her biggest concerns were for her husband and her son. She watched my pain in those early days. She knew this would be hard.
She didn’t ask. But telling her something about After was the one thing I could honestly speak to. As always, I have to tell the truth. Sugar coating is a lie everyone can see through. Putting a high gloss on things would not have worked for Beth, even if I could have managed a lie.
Here’s a piece of what I wrote:
“It will not be easy for your boys. It is going to hurt. And, in their own time, they will be okay. They will feel your love with them, buoying them, holding them up. That will be true whether you can reach through or not, though I believe you will do that with ease.
The love you’ve grown and created together, that is what will get them through. It’s a vast, wide raft that can’t be broken or depleted. They might forget it’s there sometimes, but they’ll always come back to it. They will never be okay that you are gone. And – always “and,” not “but” – they will be okay. Love beside them, love beneath them, love around them. Together, you built what will sustain them. They will be okay.”
And it’s true, isn’t it. Love is what sustains us, even as it doesn’t make anything okay.
I think we often believe that love, or healing, is the absence of pain. Some mythical medicine that removes all pain. That has never been love’s role. Love, companionship, acknowledgment – these things come up beside you, and beneath you, to support you in your pain, not to take it away.
While what has happened to us will never be okay, the truth is, in the end, and eventually, we will all be okay. Not healed, not “normal,” but okay. The love we build together in this life is the raft that supports us. The entire universe can crumble (and it does), and love will never leave.
Reach out, my loves. Reach out to each other with love, be the raft that supports and the hand that holds. It won’t make anything okay. And – always “and,” never “but” – love is the only thing that lasts.