Three Words That Aren’t Love

Three words were tossed like a lifeline.

Not one of them was “love.”

Though Love was lobbed over the fence–as if some magical cure-all–where it would hit the ground at her feet with a dull thud. They would stare dumbly down at it and then up at the arms that dangled like curtains of dead meat at her sides.

Her dying wasn’t the glamorous kind. It wasn’t a gushing wound where people scramble and call for an ambulance. It was a small, festering boil on her face that slowly grew bigger and uglier until they could no longer stand to look and had to turn away.

If they had asked, she might have told them what hurt the most wasn’t the dying. It was the dying in plain sight and them pretending not to notice.

We love you . . .

But those words can’t be felt by those who wake up crying because they woke.

She held on. For years. Fingers gripping, slipping, and re-gripping that thin, unraveling thread. Holding on not for the fear of dying; dying is forgivable. Weakness is not.

But in the pre-dawn hours, a tiny voice grew louder and, overtime, began to sound more and more like a trusted friend.

Let go. Just let go.

The one who tossed the lifeline barely knew her. But one day, they asked a question no one had asked in a very long time, if ever at all.

And though she was surprised, when she answered, it was in the monotonous tone of someone who has repeated the same answer a hundred times.

Three words were tossed like a lifeline.

Not one of them was “love.”

I believe you.

And the dying stopped.