I finished The Fault in our Stars today, which was as emotionally overwhelming as you would expect the current Emotional Book Everyone Is Trying To Read Before They See The Movie to be. I found a parallel that had less to do with cancer (the rest of this post is filled with spoilers, so if you haven't read the book and want to, stop reading this post.
And go read the book. It'll take you 4 hours, give or take.
....don't say I didn't warn you, or give you enough time to turn back before reading anything crucial....)
and more to do with loving someone and letting them live the life they choose. Both of these things can be incredibly hard to do.
I am in the midst of a Situation currently. This is the cause of my radio silence; partly because I am protecting the privacy of others, but mostly because it is such an overwhelming Situation that I haven't been able to put it into words. I am an empath, in all ways, and while what I feel makes perfect sense in my head and my heart, it doesn't always translate outside of my body.... but keeping it inside isn't the best of plans either, so I am in a constant struggle to find balance. Which, now that I type it, is what we all struggle with, in all things. It is part of the brilliance of this story that John Green was able to balance the optimism and altruism of Augustus with the realism and pragmatism of Hazel. We need both of these characters strengths to get through Situations. And we need their shared weakness of stubborn independence; when you stop raging against the dying of the light, night falls, and while you may welcome it's release, it is never what you want.
Which is probably why I was as struck by the parents in TFIOS as much as the kids. Being a teacher is often a lot like being a parent, but you clock out at the end of the day... except for those days when you don't. When you're really the parents, you don't get to clock out. And when you are parenting a child with cancer, I can't imagine you can ever relax-- ever.
Which is how I feel in this Situation. Like I can't relax, because to relax means I have accepted it as truth, and this is not a truth I ever want to accept. So I am constantly searching for meaning, for hints as to what is really happening, because what is being said is enough to be true but not to be completely true. So when Hazel's mom takes Hovering to whole new heights, while simultaneously keeping a semi-significant secret herself, I get it. And probably because I'm a 44 year old concerned bystander in a Situation and not a 16 year old girl living that Situation, I immediately understood how her mom could do both things constantly-- shield Hazel from the pains of life in any way she could-- because we can't shield our children when physical pain takes over and dominates the conversation.
And yes, my students-- my Sunshines-- are my children, too. I have to punch out at the end of the day, but not because I necessarily want to. And sometimes the physical and emotional pain that encompasses them is overwhelming... for everyone involved. So the day goes on, and the hovering rises and falls with the needs of each situation. And I keep my secrets, too, because my job is to protect my Sunshines (and their parents) as much as I can. And, if I do say so myself, I am good at my job.
Yes, John Green got living with cancer, young love, and living like you're dying right: but he also got right what parents go through when their kids are living those things. Because watching from the sidelines as children-- your children, in however you define 'your'-- suffer is a whole different level of pain and frustration and futility. My current Situation has aged me in a way I haven't aged since my dear friend-- a mom herself, and just old enough to have been my mom-- died of cancer. It's the things that age your soul that are the hardest to bear.
Yet bear we must, and we do, most of the time, anyway. John Green throws us Peter van Houten as a reminder to why it's important to make peace with Situations, learn from them, and move on as best we can. He also gives us Isaac, who is cured but has to pay a hefty price for the long life he's about to live. Green gives his readers hope, which is sometimes so hard to find in the midst of our own Situations. Hope is what keeps you moving forward; Hope keeps you living life and not just waiting for it to end. Hope is what parents give their kids when their kids can't find it.... and then what their kids give back to them.
I have Hope that my Situation will eventually cease to require the capitol S, and will just be a part of our storyline. I'm not foolish enough to not realize it could end up with a very tragic ending. But I do know that this time, whatever fault lies in this case, Cassius is wrong: and that does give me Hope.