Romance Non-Fiction posted February 14, 2024

This work has reached the exceptional level
Their love became a hope eternal.

A Special Love Story

by William Stephenson1

Part One

It was love at first sight. That’s the only way I can describe it. Carolyn was just sixteen. She had an advanced form of cancer that was weakening her more every day. She was from South Carolina. She was accompanied by her parents who were very protective of Carolyn.

Alan was twenty-three and from New York City. He too had an advanced form of cancer and in great pain. Alan had no one who accompanied him. He was on his own.

They had both come to try an experimental drug treatment program, but their attempt to get some positive outcomes was not going to be achieved. However, they were too sick to discharge. They were both facing a terminal diagnosis and they knew it. Both were Christians. Alan though was much more skeptical, and Carolyn was evangelical with her faith.

I was assigned to prepare them emotionally for discharge as well as equipping them with a different kind of hope. A hope that did not include cure. They were both so vulnerable, scared, and depressed. As Alan once said to me, “I wake up in the morning and the first thing I think about is that I have cancer and it’s killing me. When I go to bed at night, the last thing I think about is that I have cancer and it’s killing me. Dr. Bill, there seems to be no escape. It’s so consuming.”

And then they met. Quite by accident, really. Well, almost by accident. Both in wheelchairs, Alan was going pretty fast down the hospital corridor when all of a sudden, Carolyn wheels out of her room, right in the middle of the hall and nearly collides with Alan’s wheelchair.

“Have you got a license for that thing?” she asked, sarcastically but with a smile all over her face.

“Sorry about that,” he said sheepishly. “It’s just that it gets so tiresome just sitting around and waiting for news that is never good.” said Alan.

“You, too, huh?” said Carolyn.

“What do you mean by that? You mean……” said Alan.

“We came out here from South Carolina to get good news and all we’ve gotten so far is bad news,” added Carolyn.

There was a long pause as they just looked at each other. And then, “Hi, Carolyn, I’m Alan and I’m from New York.”

“You know my name?”

“I asked around. You’re the Princess of this floor. You are gorgeous. Sorry for being so forward but I don’t have time to wait for the appropriate moment.”

 Another long pause as they looked at each other.

“Alan, you need to get a helmet on if you’re going to race through these halls. And a horn.” Then she started wheeling past him and down the hall.

“Where ya goin’? asked Alan.

“To the veranda to watch the sun set.”

“Can I join you?”

“No wheelies, Alan.”

“No wheelies, it shall be, Carolyn.”

                                                                                                   Part II                      

Down the hallway they went. A new kind of hope began to emerge for both of them. In fact, those two wheelchairs were nearly inseparable to the end. They ate together, which was often just taking their medications, and spent long hours in the patient lounge. They would talk, and when they weren’t talking, they would just sit and look at each other or doze in their chairs together. They would spend long hours at the end of the hall looking out of windows that displayed a beautiful ocean and sunsets.

I would see them for individual counseling nearly every day. But I couldn’t get them to talk about their cancer. All they wanted to talk about was each other. Him or her! Alan said to me in one of our sessions, “Before I go to sleep and when I come awake, the last and first thing I think about is not the cancer, but Carolyn.”

They were deliriously happy, and both felt deeply for the other, which included a deep spiritual connection. They could both sense what the other was thinking, feeling, hoping. Consistently, they would tell me what the other was thinking.

Carolyn’s parents were struggling with this relationship. They wanted Carolyn to be happy in the midst of the peril she was facing. But they also didn’t want her to possibly endure the feelings that might come should the relationship come to an end. They wanted to protect her from the pain and emotional upheaval that a “Dear John” love letter could bring. They worried that if, and more likely when the relationship ended, she would be greatly weakened by it. Thus, her parents asked me to hold a special counseling session.

“We are concerned, Carolyn. You spend ninety percent of your time with Alan. We need some of your time, too. We’re losing you but there are times when we feel we’ve already lost you” said her dad. Her mom began to cry. No verbal communication took place for several minutes as Carolyn took hold of their hands and held them in hers.

Carolyn broke the silence. “Mom, Dad, I never thought I would ever know love as I have witnessed you two know love for each other. Alan has given me a chance to get just a sense of what it must be like to love and be loved as deeply as you two do.”

She said in the most tender of voice, “But we will never make love to each other. We will never have a wedding. Daddy, I will never realize a life-long dream of you escorting me down the aisle and into the waiting arms of Alan. And I will never be able to bear you grandchildren.”

Then, she said to her parents one final thing.  “Mom, Dad, because we believe our love is so genuine and sincere that God is with us, for us, and believes in us. We ask for your blessing. We ask you and invite you to share in our joy.”

Her father rushed and knelt in front of Carolyn, looked up at her and, with tears flooding his eyes, said, “Carolyn, we give you two our blessing and pray that whatever time you two have left, that it will be filled with tears, laughter and love. Alan is and has always been the man I wanted to give my daughter’s hand in marriage.”

I brought Alan into the meeting so that we could affirm the covenant that had just been made.  They spent several minutes sharing their stories and pledging loyalty to the well-being of Carolyn, to him and to their coupleness.


Part Three

Because there was no more medical intervention, they chose to find within themselves, and their faith, a journey at the end that was unique to this couple. Because they were no longer taking medications related to fighting cancer, we managed to get them to be together in adjoining rooms. Carolyn’s cancer was more profound. But the only medications they were taking was for the pain. Water and glycerin swabs for comfort in the mouth were the only other forms of medication.

            They remained in this state for five days. They became the talk of the hospital. Two lovers, coming to the end of life with a passion of hope they had built together. Each only interested in the welfare of the other.

Carolyn said to me, “Is Alan taking his pain medication? Is he still able to take it orally? If he can still hear you, tell him that I’m not going to be awake much longer. I’m so tired and my time is soon. I know it’s soon for him as well. Dr. Bill, he has no one but you and us. I don’t want him to die alone. Tell him that I will be waiting for him on the other side.”

I placed my cheek against hers and said good-bye. I went next door and found Alan barely conscious. But he said, “I’m on my way, Dr. Bill. I don’t even feel like I’m even here anymore. Tell C. that I will be waiting for her with open arms on the other side. Go, Dr. Bill. I want to be alone. I want to be with C.”

I placed my hand over his heart and he knew it was my way of saying goodbye. I went back to Carolyn’s room and her parents were in tears. Carolyn had just died. I stayed with them for awhile and then went back to Alan’s room. The nurses were all around him. The doctor had just pronounced Alan’s time of death, just short of Carolyn’s by one minute.

These two young people had learned to live life close and together. I remain convinced that they were so close and together in life, that they were able to plan death and life after death. They were able to orchestrate death so that they would go out together.

I was privileged to witness two people who were so deeply in love with each other that they could discover a hope that could be known by others I came to witness. A hope that was an eternal hope. 

One final note is to her parents. They remained committed to the covenant with their daughter and Alan. Because there was no one to claim his body, they paid for his body and casket to be sent back to South Carolina along with Carolyn's. They had them buried next to each other with gravestones that identified their relationship. In life, so also in death.

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