“Is that your friend in there?” an older doctor with thick glasses asked as my friends and I were leaving my boyfriend’s hospital room. “I hate to tell you this, but it would take a miracle to get him out of here.”
That doctor did not know me. He did not know how much I believed in miracles. I was back the next day, with gifts in hand, and my version of a birthday party in a box. It was November 28, 2004, and the love of my life was another year older.
Don’t cry, I told myself. No matter what happens, don’t you dare cry. He needs you to be strong right now.
So instead of balling my eyes out, I got to work. I hung photos on the wall and a “happy birthday” sign. I brought gifts and updates from our friends. My job was to show him that he was still loved and to keep him in the know with what was going on outside of the hospital walls.
I loved him and he loved me. Love at 19 is so innocent. It comes with no preconceived notions. None of my life’s baggage was packed yet and permanently attached to my back like an overstuffed bookbag. Not yet. I was still young, my outlook on life still fresh, my love still given freely. And he gave it right back, loving me for no other reason than because I was me.
Our love started in the summer and he’d always pretend he felt better than he did. When his cancer got really bad, we’d try to sneak away from it all. I’d come and pick him up in my bright yellow Ford Focus and cruise around the city until we got close to my midnight curfew. College sophomore or not, my mom was not playing that. And because he was sick, neither was his. Our parents had close ties on us because they loved us, but that always left us with just a few hours to spend time with each other. It never ever felt like long enough.
Every day, we’d stop for strawberry Laffy Taffys, or we’d park at the dock and have these deep talks. We were young, but maybe because it often felt that we were on borrowed time, we didn’t waste any of it.
“We’re gonna get married,” he’d say. “And have a lot of babies.”
“Babies?” I couldn’t even fathom being a mother yet, but thinking about it with him didn’t seem so bad.
When the summer was over and I had to go back to college, I was crushed. But, I kept a close eye on him. I’d call every hospital until I knew he was somewhere safe and sound.
“You always find me,” he’d say.
And there I was, home for Thanksgiving, and I’d found him again.
Now here in this hospital room, I wanted us both to talk about the good things.
“We’re still going to get married, right?” I asked him. “And have our babies?”
“Lots of babies,” he said, tearing up. I wanted to break down right then and there, but I held it in, savoring the sweetness of his voice, our potential future, his pure love for me.
It was time for me leave. He needed to rest and I had a flight to Florida to catch.
“Finals are coming up so soon. I’ll see you in just two weeks,” I told him. I didn’t really think it would be the last time. Remember, I believed in miracles.
Photo at the top: Chris Anderson