For years, one particular line from a song has stuck with me more than any lyric I’ve ever heard. I’ve toyed with the idea of inking it permanently onto my skin in the form of a tattoo, but the line is far too complex for that. It would require an explanation every time somebody saw it. It’s a line that haunts me, terrifies me, and yet, in some twisted way, it relentlessly drives me forward.
Love is watching someone die.
In 2005, Death Cab for Cutie released an album titled Plans, which featured a track named What Sarah Said. I first heard this particular song in 2009, and it drilled itself deep into my mind. From the soft, subtle beat, to the intensely meaningful and thought-provoking lyrics, my heart was trapped from the moment I stumbled across it.
Reportedly, the writer of this song, Ben Gibbard, explained the meaning behind this one, standout lyric. Apparently, Sarah was an friend of Gibbard’s, and the narrator in the song is a man who is passing away. This man’s wife, Sarah, stands over him on his deathbed, waiting for him to slip away into nothingness.
Together, they recognise that death would have come for one of them at some point. In the song, Sarah shows her love by standing alongside him as he fades, but before he goes, he asks her: “who’s going to watch you die?” At this point, he’s intensely aware of the fact that, after he has gone, he can’t be there for Sarah when she passes on.
Ultimately, it was Sarah who made the damning realisation, and as the narrator breathes his last, he states: “And I’m thinking of what Sarah said: that love is watching someone die.”
And it’s true… It’s harrowing, and terrifying, and heartbreaking, but it’s true. If you’re entering into a committed relationship with a person, and you’re bound together until the end of your days, one of you will watch the other pass away. It might sound devastating, but it’s actually beautiful beyond measure.
It’s the ultimate sacrifice. There’s nothing in life more meaningful, or more important, or more incredible. You’re tying yourself to that one person and loving them until one of you passes away. You love them despite knowing what will happen, and what’s inevitable. You’re saying that you acknowledge that there will be unbearable pain and loss one day, but your love for them is so overwhelming that you’re willing to take it.
That one person will be the thing you feel you can’t live without, and yet one day, that’s exactly what you’ll need to do. And yet, you push on. Together, you build a life, you get married, you bear children, and you create a home together. For every minute that you’re together, you’re pushing closer to the end, and it becomes so much more apparant as time goes on: love is watching someone die.
There’s another song I want to draw attention to here, as it offers some explanation as to what follows this irrevocable stage. It’s a beautiful track by Luke Sital Singh, called Killing Me, and it tells the story of his grandmother, and the life she has lived since his grandfather passed away. Although she’s broken-hearted, she continues to live on, without ever forgetting her husband.
And it’s killing me, that you’re not here with me.
I’m living happily, but I’m feeling guilty.
Oh, you won’t believe the wonders that I can see.
This world is changing me, but I’ll love you faithfully.
In the words of the late James Horner: “There’s no goodbye, only love.” When your love leaves this world, they don’t truly disappear. They live on in you, and in your memories, and in the things you’ve created together. Although love is watching someone die, it isn’t the end of all things. They have died loving you, and you them, and that’s all that matters.
Together, you’ve made that sacrifice, and nothing in the world can change it.
Thank you for reading.