Heroes Also Give Up Sometimes

October 21, 2016

There are heroes all around us. Our heroes are the people who have fought tirelessly against cancer or any other long-term, degenerative, or fatal illness. The people who, with their sense of humor and bravery, never stopped smiling at the world despite their adversity.

Our heroes have taught us that it’s worth fighting. They’ve taught us that the world can change color depending on the glass you’re looking through, that true friends are always there during the bad times, and that things that are worthwhile always cost a bit more.

Also, at least for me, they’ve taught me that there are battles that it’s better to stop fighting once the end has been marked. They’ve taught me that being honest with oneself and one’s feelings does not mean you’re a coward. But, above all, they’ve taught me that giving up doesn’t tend to be well-received, even though in some cases it’s the most natural thing to do.

The pain of wanting to go

When my hero learned that he was ill, he couldn’t believe it, he was in shock. Denial was the first stage of grief. The news was overwhelming and hard to handle. In this stage, he protected himself from suffering, at least for a little bit.

When he started getting medical tests, he started to understand his condition. He felt like a guinea pig, not being able to control anything around him. All he felt was pain. This pain and lack of control brought him to the second stage: anger. In this stage, he became unapproachable, difficult, and stubborn. There was a time when it seemed like others were to blame for his pain. But I know that was just how he was dealing with it.

man and woman hugging

The third stage, known as bargaining, passed quickly because his condition quickly got worse. He would have a good day, but he didn’t know how long it would last, or if that day would really be his last good day. He tried everything to overcome his illness, but nothing changed.

Afterwards, depression clawed its way in, because “if I die” turned into “when I die.” But he didn’t let the claws of depression trap him, because for the first time he stopped thinking about himself and started thinking about everyone else, about the people he was leaving behind.

And so then came acceptance, the last phase, the inevitable. You accepted death like just another part of life, because everything has an end. The problem is that the people who love you can’t accept it, because we don’t want to put what you want first.

You’ve told us that you’re not going to fight anymore, that you want to say goodbye to everyone because you don’t want us to watch you deteriorate, because fighting isn’t doing anything anymore. Your destiny is already written, you’ve decided to wait for death to come, and you ask for respect. You tell us that it hurts to part from the ones you’re leaving behind, but that it hurts more to live, and that the physical pain of life makes death a bit less scary.

“Death doesn’t exist. People only die when they’re forgotten; if you can remember me, I will always be with you.”

-Isabel Allende-

The selfishness of not letting you go

They say that growth is learning to say goodbye. Which means I’m a fickle, scared little girl, clinging to you with all my strength. I don’t want to say goodbye to you so soon. I want to be with you during your last days, I want you to fight with all of your strength to scrape a few more hours out of life.

But I also know that the pain you feel is unbearable, and that it’s selfish of me to prevent you from moving on, to get mad at you for deciding to give up, as if that were a bad thing. I act this way because losing you will be the most painful thing I ever have to do, but you’ve taught me that it’s possible to live with pain.

Don’t worry, because today I’ve decided to enter the acceptance stage, too. I’ve accepted that you’re leaving and that I’m going to lose you. And don’t worry, I might say that when you go, my life is over because you are my whole life, but that isn’t true. I’m just selfish and I don’t want to live in a world without you. But I’m not going to lose myself in the sadness, I will remember you always and I will live a happy life as a tribute to you and what you couldn’t do.

hand releasing birds

You’ll always be my heroes

To all of you who decide to give up, I want to remind you that heroes don’t always wear capes or have superpowers. Sometimes they wear a backpack full of stories, dreams, friends, and family that they have to leave behind, but that  they will never forget.

The only way to live with meaning is to accept your own pain. Accept that not all stories have a happy ending after a long journey. Instead, sometimes they end in the middle of being told. And even though the story isn’t completely finished and it doesn’t have a happy ending, it’s a story that leaves a mark.

It’s a beautiful cliché in Hollywood to see sick people who fight until the end, whose courage doesn’t waver, but this isn’t what usually happens. Heroes also give up, but that doesn’t make them any less of a hero.

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