Not Allowed To Cry
Not Allowed To Cry
Shane BarnhillThursday,19 March 2015
Today, I’m traveling across the country to say goodbye to a relative who has been told that she has only days to live. I’m lucky enough to be able to count the number of people in this world who love me unconditionally on two hands, and this person is one of them.
So when I learned the news of my relative’s situation, I booked a trip across the country without hesitation. I got my plane tickets in order, my transportation arranged, and my lodging accommodations all sorted out. I called other family members to let them know that I would be on my way soon.
They were happy to learn that I was making the trip, and promised to let my relative know the news. They said she would be thrilled beyond words. We’re happy to have you coming out they told me, but there’s just one thing.
You’re not allowed to cry.
None of us here are crying when we’re around her, they said, and she doesn’t really know how little time she has left. Even though she cries sometimes, we’re all staying strong, putting on brave faces, and telling her that everything is going to be okay. We want her last moments to be happy ones, so we’re asking all visitors to respect that rule.
Now, I’m not known as a crier, despite my admission during a recent podcast that songs by The National and Father John Misty sometimes move me to tears. So yes, it happens, but those are private moments — it’s my Spotify and I’ll cry if I want to, at least when I’m all alone. I haven’t cried in front of another person in a long, long time.
At least I hadn’t, until a few days ago, when I received an urgent call to let me know that my cross-country trip might be too late. My relative had just been read her last rites; hastily, a FaceTime session was arranged, so that she and I could say “I Love You” to each other one last time. I “stayed strong” during the call, but when that FaceTime session ended, I dropped my phone, put my face in my hands, and let it all go.
At that moment, my two sons walked down the hall and saw me sitting down, with tears streaming down my face. Instinctively, they ran over, wrapped their arms around me, and cried along with me. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt more loved.
And so I say, fuck the rules. If my relative breaks down and cries during my visit, then I’m forgoing the brave face. Instead, I’ll do the same thing my kids did for me: wrap my arms around my loved one, and cry along. Because that’s what people do when they love someone unconditionally. Besides, it’s time to stop telling boys not to cry.