You Look Different Than I Remember, Old Yeller

Or, I don’t like sad stories anymore.

It’s weird. I used to love sad stories. I owned the Doctor Who quote “Sad is happy for deep people.” Where the Red Fern Grows was my delight. The Fault in Our Stars? Yes please. And just give me a tissue and I’d be ready to spend an afternoon weeping over the end of The Wrath of Khan. (Yes, nerdy stories can be sad, too!)

I preached the virtues of imperfect endings loudly and clearly. You have to give up things, or it’s not realistic, I contended. Everything can’t turn out perfectly.

Then, I went to watch The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies in December. It wasn’t a very good movie or a very good adaptation, so I had an excuse to hate it (a three-hour film about a battle that took about five pages to describe in the book? really?) but there was more to it than that.

I watched the soldiers fall and die right and left in the epic Middle-Earth battle, and suddenly, I felt nothing. I didn’t want to cry. I wanted to leave.

Then my dad wanted me to watch his favorite sci-fi movie with him (yes, more nerd stuff). It was a pretty good story, though it felt a little rushed, but then a perfectly good, beloved character died. And I suddenly wanted no part of the rest of the story.


It troubled me for awhile. It was just fiction, after all. What had happened to the whole “You have to give things up” and “Life isn’t perfect” spiel?

Those things are easy to say, I realized, when sad things haven’t happened to you.

The revelation surprised me. As a long-time struggler with severe depression, I’m no stranger to feelings of sadness. But those were inner struggles. They were mine to fight and overcome. No matter how bad things got, if I fought and prayed and tried hard enough, I’d live happily ever after.

Then one of the people I loved best in the world betrayed me. And there was nothing I could do to change their mind or bring them back.

Then my sister left, embroiling the whole family into a time of chaos and pain. And no matter how much I tried to be there to comfort and talk to people, I couldn’t make things go back to how they were supposed to be.

Now some of my most treasured relationships are damaged, and I don’t know when or if they will be fixed.

But I want them to be fixed. I want people to come back. I want everyone to live happily ever after. I want to live in a Doctor Who world where there’s always a way to make things turn out right. I want someone to look me in the eyes and tell me that things will be okay.

Then I see these fictional stories where people die, and dogs are killed, and lovers lose each other forever, and they remind me that that’s not the world we live in.

And for all my talk of realism, sometimes I don’t want that reminder.

Yet on the other side of the Old Yellers, and the A Walk to Remembers and the A Tale of Two Citieses, there’s a story of a God who came down to earth to die for the ones He loved. And it’s that very same Person who lifts my chin in these moments to look into my eyes and say “Courage, dear heart.”

Because at the end of the day, the sorrow is one color in a greater painting. One aspect of a story that I can’t control, because it’s being penned by Someone much wiser and kinder than I. Someone who wouldn’t include the pain if it didn’t lead to a beautiful purpose.

So I am trying to open my heart to sad stories again. Because there may be a thousand bittersweet conclusions, but they are never the true end.

After all, weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

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