I know I’m really slow on the TFIOS bandwagon- I had been meaning to read this book for a while now but I never found the opportunity to do so until this week. For those of you who don’t know what TFIOS (The Fault in Our Stars) is, it’s a novel by the very loved YA author John Green.
The novel takes us on a journey through the eyes of 16 year old cancer-patient, Hazel. From the beginning, it’s understood that her death is imminent. I won’t give out any spoilers for those who haven’t read it and are planning to (or perhaps planning to watch the movie which is in the process of being filmed), but I will say that halfway through the book, there is a turn of events that took me off guard.
Now, before I started reading the book, I had prepared myself to keep somewhat of an emotional distance from it. I’d heard time and time again that many people cried reading this book and that it is impossibly sad. I figured I understood why it was sad- I mean, the novel is about a cancer patient after all. Although I was prepared emotionally for some sort of tragedy to occur, what really resonated with me was how Green tackled the issue of death and the afterlife and the prospects of oblivion. I was not prepared for that- because if there is one thing that really frightens me the most in life, it is death, and what happens to our conscience after death.
I guess a whole lot of religion and belief in God can be mixed into this discussion… Do I believe in God? If someone were to ask me what religion I was, I would reply instantly that I am a Christian. That doesn’t mean that I practice Christian values- so in a way I guess I can’t really label myself as a devout Christian. But the fundamental basis of being a Christian is the belief that there is a God and a Jesus, and that there is a heaven and a hell and if we do right by others… well, you get the point. I completely respect individuals who devoutly live their life as a follower of Christ and I understand how believing in God provides a sense of purpose for many people (and this is not restrictive to just the Christian religion, but other religions too). I just feel like, there is a certainty within the faith of people, that after death you will live on in some form or another in a blissful heaven of sorts.
I want there to be a God. I want there to be a heaven, where I will live on with the ones that I love. But I don’t know if I believe that there is such a place. What scares me is knowing that one day, I will lose the ones I love and that the realization will dawn on me that they’re gone. Forever. That there is no eternal place where they are looking down on me. That I will be missing a dead person who I will never be able to talk to ever again, touch again, share thoughts with again. That all the memories are simply just memories and eventually, when I die, they will all fade away too and someone else will be left to mourn the memory of me- the cycle repeating over and over again.
What really resonated with me in Green’s book was this paragraph (spoiler alert):
“It was unbearable. The whole thing. Every second worse than the last. I just kept thinking about calling him, wondering what would happen, if anyone would answer. In the last weeks, we’d been reduced to spending our time together in recollection, but that was not nothing: The pleasure of remembering had been taken from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we’d done were less real and important than they had been hours before.” (p.262)
I had never been able to articulate my fear of death, but Green managed to evoke all my feelings about it with this paragraph. And though I don’t want to live the rest of my life in nihilistic sentiment, I just want some sort of clarification that there is a meaning behind all of this. That when I lose my partner in life, that I will know with full assurance that I will get to experience the afterlife with him and to see all my loved ones again. That I’m not just going to be worm food deep in mushy dirt.