To turn your back on love is to turn your back on humanity.
The day after he proposed to me, my fiancé was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and given less than 18 months to live. I hear versions of this scenario a lot now. Since I began sharing my story, strangers come out of the woodwork to send me sad, desperate pleas.
"How do I do this?" they ask. After all, tens of thousands of people are diagnosed with brain cancer alone each year. Somebody loves all of them.
Those are the easy questions. It's easy to tell somebody who is grieving a living loved one to hold their hand. The hard questions are from when a significant other bails.
"My brother's fiancé left him after his diagnosis."
"My girlfriend broke up with me when I told her about the cancer."
"My parents split up when my mom got sick."
These messages make my blood boil. What kind of person, I wonder, could abandon somebody they love at a time like this? The answer is, nobody. Not if they actually feel love.
Because when you love somebody, the future stops mattering. The only thing that matters is that right now, in THIS moment, you have them. When you truly love somebody, every moment together comes with a jolt, the shock that this person chose you. That you have them. That somehow, this is your life, and they are in it.
I tell grieving lovers to be with each other. Not because there is only so much time left, not because they have to make the moment matter, but because they love each other. Because being together when times are hard is the most important part of loving somebody.
I tell them, what good is love if it can't hold your hand when your heart is breaking? What good is love if it fears itself? That is no love at all.
After my fiancé learned he had brain cancer, he tried to convince me to leave him. He tried to convince me that I didn't want this in my life, that I didn't want to watch him die and destroy my 20s by taking care of him as he withered away.
He was right. I didn't want that. What I wanted was to spend every day of my life with him, or at least, every day of his. And I told him to f*ck himself for thinking it was optional before kissing him through our tears.
Love is never optional. Love is what drives us to move from day to day, to climb mountains and brush our teeth, to draw breath when the world seems cruel. Without love, there is no life. And when life brings you love, you don't let go because it's hard.
Nothing great is ever less than hard. To love means to open your heart to the worst pains life can create but at the same time open it to the only person who can soothe those wounds. To turn your back on love is to turn your back on humanity.
So I say, no, a person who leaves somebody they love if times are hard is not only a failure at love, they are a failure at humanity. They are a failure of a human being.
When you love somebody, you fight for them. For their success, their happiness, and if you must, their survival. You fight for them to have what you have, the chance to show your love by being there. By laughing with them, crying with them, holding each other up as life rains its sh*t upon you.
Make no mistake, life is cruel. Sometimes bad things happen to good people for no reason, sometimes the people you love are the people who suffer. But life is also kind, in the midst of the sh*t there is love. Where there is love, there is reason to live, and smile, and breathe, and brush your teeth, and move from day to day.
When I get emails from a devastated wife or girlfriend or husband, I tell them, "Be together. Be with them because you love to be with them. That's the only thing that matters." And to the frightened ex-lovers of the world, who abandon a love because they are afraid of how hard it can be, I have words for you.
Life is hard. And love? Love is all that gives meaning to our lives. If love is too hard for you to fight for, life is too hard for you to fight for, my friend, and that makes you worse than a bad lover.
So face your fear and feel what it means to have your heart truly break. Feel what it is to be vulnerable and afraid. Feel what it is to love hopelessly. Feel what it is to discover that your love and hope are the same thing. Feel what it is to save somebody, if only for a moment, by loving them when they are in pain.
Fight for love.
Because the fight is always worth it.