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How “The Fault In Our Stars” Changed Me

What was I thinking? I just read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, the one about the teenage cancer patients, Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters, who fall in love. (not a sponsored post and there is a spoiler a few sentences hence).

I bought the book for my daughter Clare, because she wanted it and I thought it would be nice to read together. I expected it to be one of those After School Special tearjerkers, and in some ways it was. But it was also lyrical, real and transcendent.

Clare doesn’t like to see me cry. Parents shouldn’t cry, I suppose. It makes us too fallible and kids need us to be invincible until their teen cynicism kicks in. And even then we should still be able to bend steel with our teeth.

So I couldn’t finish the book reading to Clare, because I couldn’t read it aloud without weeping. There is something about reading aloud that makes the text thick, hot, palpable life in your mouth.

So I finished the last two chapters by myself in my bed and let the tears flow.

I wasn’t just crying mournfully for the doomed characters, but joyfully for the divinity expressed in their love.

It reminded me how wonderful human beings can be. How we can rise above our animal brain, eschewing greed, jealousy, all our baser instincts, to create art and beauty, to embrace love with all of the vulnerability it brings.

I was deeply moved by the eulogy Hazel writes for Augustus at his pre-funeral, which he was able to attend:

“I can’t talk about our love story, so I will talk about math. I am not a mathematician, but I know this: There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”

The reason I love art so much is that it reveals what it means to be human.

I can’t help but think about Hazel and Augustus’ “little infinity” without thinking of mine and Henry’s and Clare’s and Bridget’s. I can’t help but think about the time when we, both together and separately, will be gone and forgotten. It’s inevitable. But the love we share now in this place and time just makes me feel so hopeful and humble.

It’s my 49th birthday today and I couldn’t be more grateful for this life. xo S

M,S,R_and_Willa_porch_2.pi


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8 comments

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  1. Rosie Carrillo
    Rosie Carrillo 27 June, 2014, 11:24

    Are tears considered “tips?” If so, I just contributed a little. Thank you, Happy Bday, & Love!

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  2. joanne
    joanne 27 June, 2014, 12:00

    Happy Birthday, lovely Shannon! I’ll raise a glass to you this evening (or this afternoon – it’s almost the weekend!). Relish and enjoy your 49th year, they amp up the time speed at 50.
    All the best for you and have a wonderful celebration with your beautiful family!

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 27 June, 2014, 14:09

      Joanne thank you so much. Watching my daughter in a play tonight is the perfect birthday present. (altho the poor child is so nervous)

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  3. Serena Belva
    Serena Belva 1 July, 2014, 08:28

    Happy late birthday! I need to read that book, but I don’t want to turn into a sad, sopping mess. That is a truly beautiful passage. I don’t think I could attend my own pre-funeral.

    Reply this comment
  4. Melissa
    Melissa 10 July, 2014, 08:09

    Happy Birthday! Great hair in your pic. If you haven’t yet, see the movie. The deepest reservoir of tears will be unleashed

    Reply this comment
  5. Mindy
    Mindy 12 July, 2014, 07:43

    I normally just stalk your posts and laugh hysterically, but I had to respond…this book made me the sniveling equivalent of 27 toddlers with skinned knees. I bawled my eyes out, blurring the page, causing me to have to start that part over, at which point I’d start sobbing all over again. My 13 year old laughed at me the entire time, until 4 days later when she got to the last two chapters herself. We then decided we’d have to wait for the Blu-ray, because no way would anyone allow us to sit in a theater sobbing loudly, faces contorted snot running everywhere. Thanks for sharing!

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    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 12 July, 2014, 09:01

      Oh Mindy I know I know. Such an incredibly tender, moving, humanistic and even uplifting story. xo

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