The Last, Stupid Hug: Love is

On Saying Goodbye to Say Hello

“Please don’t die on me,” she laughed. I’m standing next to my best friend’s jeep with my arms wrapped around her in the summer sun. I can feel the pressure building up in my chest. I know what it is; I am disgustingly aware of what I am doing. I know that I won’t see her again until long after the bone marrow transplant in July.

We’re saying goodbye again.

I try to remind myself that I have said goodbye to her many times before: when she left to hike the Appalachian trail or when she went to Colorado or the last hug after graduation before I went to college. But now, this is different. This is much more serious than that. This is the last, stupid hug before a point of no return like no other.

“I can’t die,” I chuckled; wiping my tears off my face. “I have to be the maid of honor in your wedding.”

I have to do a lot of things. I thought, I have to be there when you have you get your first job and have your first kid. I have to be there.

“You will be.”

I am excruciatingly terrified of last hugs for a woman who has given a lot of them in a short period of time. I am also a woman who has spent a lot of her life avoiding them, but has recently been forced into the realization that they are unavoidable pillars of life that we must feel. The more of them I give, the more special they become and the less terrifying. Every relationship we have in life must end with last, stupid hugs on way or another. Sometimes we must pause relationships, and our last, stupid hugs become placeholders.

Until next time.

I have referred to this particular brand of hug as the “last, stupid hug” in my head since I was in middle school, because while they are absolutely not stupid in the slightest, the feeling they give me makes me feel very stupid. The anxiety about them does as well. I feel stupid and anxious sitting awake at night thinking about how horrible it is that I have to give “last, stupid hugs” at all. Or at least, the last hug before the point of no return — before I have done the stupid, awful irreversible thing (that I am very much looking forward to). Anybody who has ever taken an irreversible step in life knows what I’m talking about — this will never be the same. As the date gets closer, I have become more and more aware that those hugs are going to get harder to give. Because the final hugs are going to be the big ones. The most terrifying of them all.

I decided to face my fear of last stupid hugs in April when I realized that I would have to say goodbye to most of my friends at the end of the semester; people who wouldn’t see me again until long after the procedure was done.
I didn’t want to look back on those months before the bone marrow transplant and ever regret a single moment; a missed opportunity to say something to someone I loved. A hug. A compliment. I decided that I was going to attempt to love as hard as I could when I could, while I could. I think that I did that to the best of my ability as best as I knew how. I hope that people felt that. I am not the absolute best at loving people all the time, but I do think that I have improved significantly. I am much less afraid of it now. Perhaps it’s because I realized that last stupid, hugs are worth it after all. These last, stupid hugs are necessary to have more hugs later on too. If I want to live a full life: if I want to graduate college, get my masters, Ph.D., and have a family someday. If I want to publish a book. Then I have to do these last, stupid hugs now because everything I’ve ever wanted in life is on the other side of them. And although the last stupid hug before something terrifying is painful, never getting to the other side is much worse.

I am not the only person who is aware of the last, stupid hug phenomena. There are people in my life who know that the last stupid hug is coming very soon. I don’t like to think about it; neither do they (I think), but whenever I see them, it’s written all over their face. Everyone knows that it’s coming. I am in constant awe of these said people, though, because they have proven time and time again that perhaps I am somehow worth it (which has always remained shocking to me). That somehow, my last stupid hug is worth the pain, the terribleness, and I wonder what I did in life to deserve them. Some of them tell me the same and I have decided as a result that maybe love isn’t complicated at all.

Love is staying around until the very last, stupid hug. And if you love something, then it will come back (people say), but if it doesn’t come back, then you loved it all the same and not any less. You don’t regret a thing. Life is full of love and last stupid hugs; whether we like it or not. They aren’t the be feared. In fact, they are the opposite — to be cherished. Because although the last, stupid hug is the absolute worst, it also means that you found someone you love enough to make it meaningful.

I do not regret any past or future last, stupid hugs, because I know the next time that I get one, we will be hugging for another reason entirely. We’ll all be hugging each other because my stupid, incurable disease is gone. A wonderful first hug. A second, stupid beginning.

Until next time.

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