I believe in love because it is a choice.
Love is a choice that presents itself at every moment—big or small—of our lives. A couple of months ago, one of my oldest and dearest friends was diagnosed with cancer. I’ll never forget that day or that phone call. I was alone in my dorm room, sobbing on the phone with her, hoping it was a nightmare we could wake up from. The word “cancer” was so terrifying to hear, and it was difficult to calm myself down enough to comfort my friend! I felt so helpless, as if there was nothing I could do to alleviate her pain and suffering. This was a moment in my life where I realized I had a choice to make: I could allow my fear to inhibit me from truly helping my friend, or I could choose to show her how much I love her and our friendship.
I reflected on the fact that in the big moments in life, when we need love the most, it is the little things that people choose to do that show us how much they care. So I called my friend often to offer her encouragement, like my mom always does for me. I visited her so I could ask her about her day and talk about our favorite things, just like my dad would. And I gave her my best advice, and joked with her, the way my friends would with me. And she, suffering though she was, never flinched in her resolve to choose love. Her kind words to her nurses, her habit of never complaining, and her smile that never seemed to waver were the little things, in that big “life moment,” that she chose to do out of love. Those moments were the difference between a horrible experience and an opportunity to grow.
Now that my friend has recovered, and is working to gain back her independence by getting a job and going back to school, there’s more time to process what happened over the past months. It’s easy to give in to anger when I remember those heartbreaking moments when her hair first started to fall out, she couldn’t eat, didn’t have the energy to get out of bed, or I was holding her hand during the worst parts of chemo. And it’s ok for me to get angry—watching a loved one suffer isn’t easy. Suffering isn’t easy.
Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of this experience (for me, at least) is choosing to remain positive and loving, and not give into anger or sadness. The positive memories that we chose to make bear a lot more weight in my mind. Even in the midst of suffering, we found joy more often than not. She was still my old friend, and we still laughed, and stayed up late talking when she had the energy. We still did as many of our favorite things as we could (watching Netflix and drinking tea) much like before. Even if we couldn’t have done any of those things, we would have continued to make new traditions together. Although there was suffering, and some things were different, we were still part of the same friendship—still making the fundamental choice show each other love.
Now that my friend is better, we are back to little moments, and smaller opportunities, to show love to the world. We have both grown in understanding and patience, which give new depth to our relationships and our own friendship. Not only did we try to lift each other up, but other friends and family members reached out to provide support. My friend received so much love during her illness, and I heard from family members who offered encouragement and advice on how to be there for a loved one during difficult times. In some of the darkest times of my life, love has found me and helped me grow to be the best person I can be.
I believe in love because it is a choice. Love is a choice that we can make every day—a choice to act in a way that helps others and ourselves grow to become the best people we can be.