>  Moments   >  Someone I Love Is Dying

Someone I love is dying.

I’ve been processing with bad poetry, decent musical renditions, and emotional calls with friends. The writing helps, and maybe the sharing does, too. So here we go.


TW: Talk of death and dying.

TW: Self indulgence

TW: Bad Poetry

Llwyngwril, pasture, land, grass, green, lush, trip to Llwyngwril, quick trip to Wales, romantic getaway in Llwyngwril, romantic getaway in Wales
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Someone I Love is Dying

Someone I love is dying. He’s too young, and yet it’s true. Too fit and healthy, too. Too brilliant and too bright. He’s an old flame, turned new.

It’s keeping me distracted, despondent, if I’m honest. But writing, ever writing, just trying and trying to figure out the feelings cause they’re gnawing and they’re whining most minutes of the day, each day of the week. And typing is easier than trying to speak. And maybe, just maybe, it will give me some relief. If I find the right words, if I get the words out.

I’ve lost loved ones before, but never a lover. It occupies a different plane.

We were born into families, the people who made us, the genes in our bloodstreams, the histories winding. We didn’t pick them, and they didn’t pick us, and we grow up beside them and weep when they’re gone.

But a lover you choose, and you love them intensely, with every fiber—it’s fiery love. The burning kind, the maddening kind, the way no one else ever sees you kind.

I know him in ways that his family does not, though I’m sure other girls could say the same thing. And he knows me uniquely from all of the rest, though I’ve had my fair share of lovers before. And we met in a bubble and love blossomed quickly, and in the real world it couldn’t survive. But now here we are, Part II a year later, lovers again, because he’s got to die.


I’d trade it, I swear, though it gives me great comfort, to know that I’ve made the top of his list. I’d give up my status of “Lover who mattered” if instead he’d forget me and could survive this.

I’d cease to exist, wish him well on his way, forget about cancer, forget about us. I’d be moving on, unbothered, unphased, remember, instead, the way that we parted. The difficult bits could occupy space—the fights and the breakup, the rigid straight lines. The way that he thought he was right all the time. And could be an asshole, let’s not forget that. I’d hate him if it would keep him alive.

But now things are different, and fewer things matter. I smooth out the lines, the crinkles and kinks. We focus instead on the bubble that blossomed, the here and the now, what we’ve got left. The sparkling moments, and there were many—on beaches, in rainstorms, in shitty hotels. In museums and on top of The Rock. Ice skating in Bryant Park. All dressed up like dolls, when the world was a boardgame, before it turned black and showed us who’s boss. Before we broke up and before he killed Rome, and before I could fathom this particular loss.

I look straight in his eyes, try not to look down, too afraid to see the miles passing. Afraid to think of time passing.


It’s easy to see why I fell for my lover, his sense of adventure a match for my own. Even through illness, his drive confounds me—it’s going and going and going and going. So many plans! But the cancer’s not slowing. So, despite being sick, my lover is busy. In addition to nauseous, freezing, and dizzy.

Packing in memories while he can make them, spending his time the best that he can. And again, I’m so grateful to be in the circle, and I’m so exhausted from being so sad. And I’m so voracious, I want every moment. [Did I mention I’m jealous? I want every moment.] And I’m breaking in half for his mom and his dad.

And even if I’m not his favorite girl who ever lived, I show up. And I will, and I will, and I will.

I’ll swallow my pride whenever it’s called for. I jump on an airplane, I spin through time. I cross that ocean, again and again. I say I’ll be there ‘til the end. And I will, and I will, and I will.

Creep through three stories of an English house. Sip tea instead of coffee, try not to burn the floor. Watch the highlights of the Man United match, make myself busy during sick spells and naps. Try not to crash the rental car, try not to push too hard—about the diet, or the treatment, or the sports car that he loves. Try not to say too much, but to offer up my ears. Try not to be too much, but continue being there.

And above all else, the most important thing, when you’re a lover, not the goner, just a lover, not real family:

Never let a tear leak through, when you’re with them, in plain view.

You’re support, you’re a piller, you’re a sturdy leg, my dear.

Give what you can, be useful, be loving, help them here.

But keep your own to you, and keep your tears for yours.

We haven’t got much time left, give the boy what he deserves.

The brightest smile, the wildest love, the fastest ride, the hardest hugs, a listening ear, a shoulder here, a partner in crime, if only to snack with. A lover, if only in name.

A placeholder for the future… maybe. Just in case.

And I will, and I will, and I will.

Through storms I’ll be a sun. Or just a safe, warm room.

Give whatever’s asked, while I can, while it’s wanted.

Enjoy him while I can, when I’m wanted.

Keep showing up as long as I’m wanted. As long as it’s helping. As long as I’m breathing.

And what does death feel like for me? And when I’m home, what then?

Taunting, with its long, snarled fingers, bored itself into my brain. Death is insidious, it never goes away.

It goes something like this…

We’ve got a death appointment—a year, or less, or more, away. (Who can really, really say?)

So, every day, alerts go off: Reminder—He will die.

Oh, thanks, I think, I’d nearly forgot. It’s time, then, for my daily cry. Fresh tears each time, my ducts astound me, their capacity to wet anew. Meanwhile, my guts seize up and churn, like this is novel information. Like I’m an amnesia patient.

It’s like I’m prey, a mouse tossed by a cat, left in the dust, when it saunters away. Just battered enough so I can’t up and run, just broken enough so I can’t save myself, but living, and living, continuing on. Until later the cat comes and knocks me about, a paw, a claw, a sharp, toothy puncture. I’ll bleed just a little but never to death. The appointment’s not ‘til next year, after all. So, I hold my own sides, curl up in a ball. I heave and I spit while I cry, and I curse. And then I remember that it will get worse.


When he’s really gone.

When the lights are out.

When there’s no more time to plan.

It’s too much to think of, really.

Dying is better than dead.

So, I take all my tears and the gashes and wounds, and I relish the feeling, the scared, pre-death feeling—that glorious feeling of grief in advance.

I fold up like a toy, leave myself for the cat, let it bat me around, let it last a while longer, and I’ll cry a while longer, and curse a while longer, and hurt a while longer, and longer and longer. The longer it lasts, the longer he’s here. What’s a little blood, several thousand tears?


Life blindsides you, then makes you dance—a puppet on the stage. With no control, no say. But I’ll dance on glass and bleed on the floor, and I’ll stomp, and I’ll beg, and I’ll grovel for more. My strings keep me going, and so does the knowing that whatever I’ve got now is all that I want. That what’s yet to come is too dark to think of. That I would give more for so little.

A year, a month, an hour more.

A smile across his too-young lips.

A trip to Scotland. A trip to Cornwall.

Watching the Beckhams in bed.

Being in the same room.

I’m so fucking self-centered, believe me, I know it.

I’m not the one dying, I’m only a witness. I’m not his wife, barely a mistress. And he’s already got a mom and a dad, and two sisters too, and friends by the dozen, and so many other good people who love him. And I’m just one. A speck in a life.

But I found him in a bubble, he was golden, and I loved him. And I’ll love him still and for all my days.

(His might be numbered, but mine are not.)

I’ll love him until my two hundredth birthday, and sing the songs I wrote about him. And tell the world how bright he shined; how unlucky they all are to be here without him.

How the road was long, and so were his legs, and how people listened when he opened his mouth. How he was bad at spelling but sharp as a tack, pretentious for sure, but it couldn’t deter you from falling in love with this boy. How love wasn’t a cure for madness, he sure could drive you mad. But the charm almost made up for it, and the height almost made up for it, and the moments of sincerity. The shell necklace he gave to me.

How curiosity propelled him. How he loved his life so much. He traveled the land, dove under the sea. Was a lover of music, and film, and art. And wanted to write a great sci-fi romance, but needed some time to live, he said. Before he committed to write, he said. So that he’d have something to say, he said. And I get it more than I ever did.


That beautiful boy, with a head full of curls, will forever be a twenty-something. No softening lines as life wears you down, no coming to terms with nuance and gray. Instead, we come to terms with this. Instead, he gets eternal youth. Instead, we get to feel the burn of losing him.


It’s the tarnished side of a lucky coin, the burn after the welcome rays. The piper that must be paid.

And how could I lose him if I never knew him? So let me count my gratitudes:

For finding him, for keeping him, for Leon and spicy Thai. For giving him “one night”. For long walks and backpacks, shit service in Spain—things we talked about along our Way. For him choosing me, and loving me, even if that couldn’t last. And now I have him back. And it’s not the way I want it, but I’m glad to have him back. And it will hurt more when he’s gone, but thank god I have him back.

I wish that things were different, but I won’t get my wishes.

I’ll show up, instead, the only thing to do.

But it will comfort you to know that it’s not all doom and gloom.

(Everybody wants a happy ending, right?)

This time we have, it might be black, but it’s silver lined.

We’re having lots of fun, the belly-laughing kind. The great adventure kind. Big plans and butterflies. Christmas markets and Sunday roasts, scenic drives along the coast. Fancy dinners and comedy shows—may as well have a few laughs. A football match at Old Traff. Monkeys, and dogs, and chocolate in bed, replaying the last year, the way that we met. Braving the English weather—only fun because we’re together.

Seeing his past in the present,

context for my beautiful boy.

A hundred more moments of joy. A million more moments of joy.

He’s making the absolute most of his time.

And I’m doing my part to make absolute sure

that he gets everything that he wants, the last hoorah he deserves.

And if there’s one thing I do, in my whole life, that I don’t fuck up, one thing I get right, if there’s one thing that counts, one thing worth defending, it’s ensuring this boy gets his happy ending.


He will have a happy ending.

We’ll all make sure of it.

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  • Jim Hope

    November 30, 2023

    Toni, I am so sorry for your sorrow! It was interesting as I read your story, I got a tear. and then I thought how blessed I am to hove our friendship. I’ll never be one of your bi###es, but I’m glad I can count you as a friend. I will say a prayer for you both for the coming days. JH

  • November 30, 2023

    I honor you and your current journey through this anticipatory grief. I honor the one who is dying. I have been here, where you are now. Your vulnerability to connect with your support system during this these moments and to express your feelings through your beautiful talent of writing is awe inspiring and heart felt. Writing has been a cathartic therapy for me as I moved through my anticipatory grief and the grief there after. You are so loved. You are so seen. You are so heard. You are protected. You are connected. And you are safe. Love you Tonez. I got your back xo

  • Rae

    November 30, 2023

    Thank you for sharing your tender feelings.
    So much love to you two. <3
    He’s fortunate to have you, and you him.

  • Rae

    November 30, 2023

    Thank you for sharing your tender feelings.
    So much love to you two.
    He’s lucky to have you, and you him.

  • Tati

    December 2, 2023

    The feelings you expressed in this were so raw and open. Thank you for sharing, I know it’s not easy.

  • John Pettey

    December 5, 2023

    You are there. Sometimes that is all you can do. And I know from experience that you will forever be glad that you are there. You could turn away, but you don’t. You could run away, but you won’t. What you described is you are being you in the middle of it with him. That’s all you have and you’re giving it. It will be wonderful and awful, and moments of bliss and moments of crushing heartbreak, and eventually a hole that can’t be filled. When you can’t take any more, give yourself a moment to fall apart and then dive back in. I love you two. You only get one chance to finish well – he’s embracing it and you’re there.


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