I feel heavy with something tangible. Isn’t that what pain is? Something you feel with every ounce of your being? It starts in the chest and creeps through the rest of your body until it numbs, tingles, then numbs again.
Great literature can conjure this very real, very uncomfortable emotion. So can film. And I just felt it.
I used to write movie reviews for a newspaper, but I never inserted myself into those reviews the way I am about to; in a very real way that only the sensation of pain can evoke.
How can something so make-believe, a story written by a novelist, a fictional story-teller, capture something so raw? “The Fault In Our Stars” - a movie that sucked me in from word one. From the images of a happy life and two young people falling in love to the title frozen on the screen with the spoken words, “I like that version as much as the next girl does, believe me. It’s just not the truth. This…is the truth. Sorry.”
And you are prepared. (sort of) Prepared for what is to come, but not fully. How can you be? You’re prepared for a story, but the weight of it is unbearable. I cried through the whole thing. I am a mom. A mom of the two most amazing boys in this world. I cry sometimes just thinking about how much I love them. It scares me. It hurts. This is the best kind of pain, of course, but a film such as this takes this pain and puts it somewhere unthinkable. Somewhere real if the cards are dealt wrong.
The love that the two young cancer victims in the movie share is (as put by the father at the end of the film) how a parent loves a child. You love them more than you love yourself. The dialogue in “The Fault In Our Stars” was poetic. The imagery was real yet almost fairytale.
These two people found bliss in the midst of hell; In the midst of living lives that they knew would end far beyond their times. To see the world through their eyes is like forcing yourself through a too-small door to enter a too-naked world. A world bare of what-ifs and unforeseen truths.
I watched the movie through the eyes of the parents. My heart ached for the love these two teenagers shared, and I some felt joy and relief in the fact that they were able to experience this depth of love before death. But every thought of losing a child is where my pain settled. It settled with tightness in my chest, numb limbs, soaked eyes and thoughts that I wished I could escape from just as easily as I could by turning off the movie.
But I couldn’t. I was rooting for the teenagers every bit as much as the writers wanted me to root for them. I felt their love the way I was intended to feel it. I wiped tears in all the heavy moments. But I haven’t watched a movie in a very long time that made me want to run into my boys’ rooms and hold them forever. I am still crying.
An early scene in the film showed the main character sitting on the swing set her father built when she was little. We have a swing set/play structure in our backyard. My boys play on it every day. They laugh until they fall off. They hang art in it. They imagine in it. This is the scene that got to me. The girl in the film knew she was dying. She sat on the same swings she sat on as a little girl when she did not know that an early death would become her life. The weight of that thought grounded me for the remainder of the film.
The sun comes up. The sun goes down. But what happens in between those hours is unknown. We all know that life can change instantly. This film taught me to hang on to every single instant I have with my two healthy, full-of-life little boys. Sometimes we all need reminders of what is important, and this movie did that for me. It moved me to tears. Two hours of a throat blocked with one giant, solid tear bump.
It’s time to change perspective. Films like this can teach us how. I will never watch this movie again. Not because I didn’t like it. I did. But because I can’t experience that kind of pain again; pain that isn’t even real in my life and I pray that it will never be real. When asked by a nurse in the film what her pain was on a scale of one to ten, the main character’s answer was nine.
When she lost her boyfriend to cancer, her answer was ten. I’ve never experienced a pain of ten, and I pray to God I never have to. Life is made of moments. Days, yes, hours and minutes and seconds, of course. But it is the moments that matter. Make the most of each and every one – because you never know when your last will come.