It's strange to write this to you right now, because we basically just got off the phone with each other after talking for 1 hour and 5 minutes. But fear not, being the loquacious person that I am, I still have things to say. Now the question is: do I give you the long version or the long-story-short?
We briefly talked about mortality and death on the phone- that's been on my mind a lot today. Perhaps it was the blasé way in which Joann commented on my Nonno dying, or sitting in the waiting room of the doctor's office with a bunch of other sick people who are trying to get better. Maybe it was how self-aware I felt as I sat across the table from my grandpa at lunch, questioning him on what the doctor said, what did all the testing reveal? He paused a long while before he responded; he's been doing that a lot lately. "It's my heart sweetie," he said. "I think it's just all my heart." I knew that.
In the movie we watched on Sunday, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Mrs. Muir falls in love with a ghost who is haunting a cottage she's renting. They stand intimately close to each other, face-to-face, and he assures her that "As long as you believe in me I'll exist." And yet, she cannot reach out and touch him. To be so in love with something you cannot hold; what an awkward, sad, frustrating feeling, right? I imagine that's what it feels like to be so close to death. You believe in it, it exists, and yet you can't grab hold. You can only stand close and look at it and be frustrated.
I asked my grandpa over dinner why the heart is what we associate with love. "I don't know," he said, "but if I were to guess, it would be because the heart is a central part of our bodies, that is responsible for so much of what keeps us alive. We can't live without it, just as we can't live without love."
Dah, it feels weird to write it down; like some over-dramatized movie line. But I never really thought of love as an essential element to human survival.
So then I kept thinking. My grandma died over 7 years ago. She was the loveliest person you've ever met, by the way. Even when she lost her memory, her reality, her life... she was lovely.
Her death was very slow and messy and extremely painful. Before my grandpa began fighting his own mortality, he was on the front line of hers. Every single day he dedicated his life to her. And after she died that did not change. He has been struggling for years. Of course his heart is getting weaker. He lost a really big, really essential part of it.
And that's the trade off, isn't it? He has unshakeable, unconditional love for my grandma. And for it, he has great pain. He has unshakeable and unconditional love for me, too. And so there is deep pain. It's so terrible and sad and hard, but it's also so, so good. His heart has done a lot of good work, now it's tired.
What a privilege to know and to share such love. So when I say I love you, Stuart, I mean that you are essential to me. I need you. Thank you so much for all the ways in which you give yourself to me. :)
PS- I chose the long version
PPS- I actually have been writing this since we got off the phone, and it's 1am now. So maybe, relative to the complicated and never-stopping subway system of my mind, this is the long-story-short.