Love Always Outlives us

On the kinships we choose and how love gets passed on

Love doesn’t die when people do.

Cancer killed my best friend Anthony in September 2018 but he’s forever part of my personal narrative. We knew each other my entire adult life and whenever I feel untethered and lost, I turn to what he taught me for guidance.

The love we shared is forever imprinted on my synapses, etched on my heart.

Family is those people you fold into your life as much as those you share blood ties wit; once they’re in, they’re in forever, alive or dead. Anthony is as much part of my family as my stepmom. She may not have brought me into the world and yet the closeness we share defies language.

Ours is an intuitive kinship, a similar way of looking at the world despite being generations apart.

The bonds we forge with fellow humans we choose as part of our extended families — and who choose us as part of theirs — often prove far stronger than those we have with folks we’re related to. It means no one ever needs be without people, even when our own relatives reject us. Many of us end up estranged from our families because we fail to conform to their strict ideas of who we should be, who we should love, who we should worship…

Unconditional love isn’t a matter of blood but of total acceptance, welcoming others exactly as they are, imperfect, fallible, and just as vulnerable as us.

There’s no need to keep up appearances, no airs and graces, no pretense: Kin are people you can be yourself with.

While blood is no guarantee of kinship, love is.

Love doesn’t die when people do.

And yet, knowing this doesn’t make the prospect of death and loss any easier.

Cancer has been trying to kill my stepmom since September 2018. It was already at stage 4 back then but oncology tamed some of it for a while until it decided to intensify again about two weeks ago. One day you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day in a restaurant with your husband and the next you can’t walk or eat or drink anymore.

And you can barely speak.

But love won’t be silenced even if it takes more energy than you’ve had all day to grab the phone and say a few words. This is what my stepmom insisted on doing so we could have a brief chat even though it took superhuman efforts to do so. The metastases may have left her liver but they’re now on her brain, affecting her balance and speech.

The unspeakable monopolized the conversation and every word sounded like goodbye. So far, we’ve had two of those chats in the last week and today she starts brain radiotherapy. We’ve all moved past terror to resignation but the serenity my father has always sought solace in from the beginning has gone.

“But, you know, the human brain…,” Dad said, trying to consider all possible side-effects and failing because this is too overwhelming for words and none of us can find them.

There’s only so much fear humans can process before it becomes commonplace, normal, routine and turns into constant mental restlessness.

Love doesn’t die when people do.

The element of choice in human relationships is the most powerful force there is: love, our life force, the engine of our shared humanness. Much like Anthony and I did, my stepmom and I chose each other. I fell for her much like my father did because we both identified her as kin.

Love is kinship.

It’s a bond that doesn’t break when people die but instead comes to define part of us, how we move through the world and interact with it. The first time I realized it was indestructible is when I noticed I kept invoking my grandfather’s spirit in times of adversity. Papi has been dead since the mid 90s but I still seek counsel from his teachings, much as I now do from Anthony’s.

Because love always come through. Its answers are sometimes surprising but they do make sense; the hardest part is committing to fully owning the decisions it informs. This will hurt more than words can ever convey but you will accept it with grace and occasionally gratitude.

To know this kind of love is to be able to get through anything while your heart is breaking, it’s what gives your life meaning so of course when you’ve found it, you never let it go.

Because it has become a habit and part of your identity.

Love doesn’t die when people do.

But love isn’t about doing what’s best for you, love does what’s best for those you love and trusts you to find the compassion to accept this. My stepmom has been intimating the time might have come for her to die for a while now, willing us to accept what no one can ever prepare you for.

She’s ready and asking us to let her go but logistics are currently denying her the peace of mind she desperately needs. The coronavirus outbreak is problematic in Franceand the EU at large — and my father has decided on a no visitor policy for now, so as not to put his wife at risk.

We’re all potential carriers and while COVID-19 is unlikely to kill a healthy person, it could be a swift death sentence for someone severely immunodeficient, as is the case with cancer patients.

Knowing unconditional love is utterly selfless and gets passed on from one person to the next is scant comfort at such a time.

And yet, love lives on not just within us but as us. When a loved one passes away, we become the love they gave us to other people. And those other people then go on to become this love to more people.

Love is renewable human energy.

In that sense, no one ever truly dies: Love just changes faces

I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.

The human condition is not a pathology・👋ASingularStory[at]gmail・ ☕️

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