This past weekend I read John Green’s work, The Fault In Our Stars. The premise of this novel centers on two cancer-stricken teenagers who fall in love. This book was released in 2012, but because of the subject, I postponed reading it. I knew that many references of cancer lurked in the pages. Reading about cancer transports me to those days with my father and the countless appointments with his oncologist, chemotherapy, and radiation. It is a part of my history I prefer to only revisit when necessary.
From the moment I started reading, the narrator’s voice resonated in a way I did not expect. Her voice carried an authenticity that lingered hours after I read a particular passage. One line pulsed with so much vigor I felt compelled to write about it. “Grief reveals you.” I never pictured grief in this way, but so much about these three words conveyed what I’ve felt for so long, but could not articulate.
In the five years since my father’s passing, the lens in which I view the world altered permanently. Since witnessing his illness, my tilt toward gratitude increased in ways that I never fathomed before. All the particulars of my life harbored a deeper meaning. The privilege of engaging in everyday moments took on a texture that felt palpable. I listened to my breath for the first time, sinking deep into the exhale and inhale, especially on my morning runs. Grief pushed me to consider what a privilege it becomes to be able to read, write, laugh, cry, and participate in the mundane, happy, and messy places in my life. The everyday took on a newer meaning.
My turn toward this new philosophy did not occur overnight. A metamorphosis occurred with a deliberate and slow cadence. I noticed that the trivialities like spilled milk on the counter, sitting in traffic, or my microwave suddenly breaking down, did not translate into any angst, but an appreciation to be alive to witness these nuisances.
Grief pushed me to recognize how to really sink into the certainty of a single moment.
The experience of grief offered a larger context and infrastructure to map out the landscape that I wanted to mold for my life. Perhaps most of all, it taught me this truth: You stop jaywalking through your life. You own it all: the happy, messy, mundane, while learning to embrace the edges and curves of your experiences.
You’ve picked a great line to ponder, Rudri. I loved that book too, and was struck by the way the teenagers in the book dealt with death. Knowing they were on borrowed time made them honest and brave. But really, we’re all on borrowed time. Best to live honest and brave now!
I like your reminder – “We are all on borrowed time.” Life becomes much more sacred if we keep this mantra in mind.
“Grief reveals you”-how true it is. I read this book during my father’s terminal illness. This line popped out at me as we were dealing with a difficult relative. This person behaved in the same manner when my brother was terminally ill. I can attest their are never truer words. I looked around me and took in how we were all dealing with this grief and it our actions spoke for us. I realize we all grieve differently but the manner in which we deal with others and life itself during a crisis reveals our true nature.
Crisis reveals. I am certain this book had greater levity because it was during your father’s illness. I experienced a similar situation during my father’s funeral service. Even to this day, I still have a hard time understanding what transpired and why certain people reacted in a very offensive manner.
This book sits on my desk – my daughter is begging me to read it. She said that the writer – a teacher who delivers online teaching videos–really captured a teenaged girl’s voice really well. She read portions out loud to me over the weekend. I LOVED HER VOICE! The line you choice to ponder–is indeed one of depth that will open up many ideas. I went for my yearly cancer check yesterday. Our human state will always leave us with questions, wonder and the specter of loss and grief. It just is. My work is to embrace all of it. You are a wonderful teacher.
You must read it. I want to know what you think of both voices. The characters really stay with you.
Thank you, always, for your generous and kind words. xoxo
Beautifully penned post, Rudri. Thank you for sharing.
I am glad it resonated with you, Ayala.
It is an amazing feeling to stumble upon a line that can capture complex feelings that you’ve had for so long but haven’t been able to articulate. I’m glad that you were able to find that line in John Green’s book, Rudri.
It is a relief when you find a line or a passage that speaks to something that you could not identify before. This book offered so much for me, Cecilia. I hesitated reading it because of the subject, but I am glad that I eventually read it.
That is a wonderful quote from the book… Did you love that book? I thought it was really well done and loved it!
Yes, Tiffany, I really loved many passages of the book. So glad to have experienced this book.