I believe in love.
I was riding down a back road in Mexico with my boyfriend John and his family when I began to lose consciousness. I had ignored the signals earlier –stomach cramps, nausea, itching of my throat and face. I pretended it wasn’t happening. Not again. But then I felt the familiar pain, the steady tightening of my throat, my body embracing death despite my unwillingness to go.
I chocked. My body shook and flailed. The world began to move in and out of my vision. In a dream-like state, I was aware of John slamming on the brakes. The people behind us swerved and honked. The car ahead of us stopped and John’s uncle, a doctor, got out, running toward our car. John placed an epi-pen on my thigh; I grabbed it and stabbed myself. We followed the doctor to the hospital for IVs and oxygen as my breathing began to stabilize.
I tried not to cry. John took my hand while simultaneously charging through traffic. John’s four-year-old daughter Natalie, who lost her mother to a heart attack two years ago, sat in the backseat. She repeatedly asks us to marry, but that day I heard her say, “You can’t marry her, Daddy. She might die.”
I turned my head toward the window and cried silently.
Due to a rare condition I have I might die. I have anaphylactic attacks, which, for no discernable reason, causes my throat to swell shut. If I don’t contain it, I will go into shock, lose complete consciousness and die. We all may die, really, at any moment. I am just more aware of this than the general population. When I don’t have attacks, I live my life normally.
This stripes it all down for me, lays it all bare. I believe that life is about love. Romantic love, yes, but all types of love –laced with compassion and sympathy and touch. Love is important because it makes life bearable, livable and meaningful. It changes the context of everything.
Life, unfortunately, can be hard. And at the age of four even Natalie understands that loving means opening yourself up to pain and loss. But you need love to carry you over the rough parts, and you need love to make the rough parts worth getting over. John needs it and Natalie needs it and I need it.
You need someone’s hand to hold when you can’t breathe. And you need someone’s hand to hold to make it worthwhile, so you want to continue to breathe.
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