Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Ever since I was a kid, great stories made me sad. Sure, they’d be good fun for a time, but, as the story drew to a close, I’d begin to feel an all-too-familiar pang of nostalgia, melancholy, and sometimes, despair.

I’ve felt this way for as long as I can remember.

I recall blubbering like a baby at 6 or 7 when Charlotte’s Web ended with Charlotte’s last goodbye.

I choked back tears when, after destroying the ring, Frodo decided that couldn’t stay with his friends in the Shire.

And as an old soul, growing up listening to old time radio and watching shows like The Andy Griffith Show, M*A*S*H, and I Love Lucy, I grew misty eyed when I realized that these moments I shared with Andy and Barnie, Hawkeye and Trapper, or Lucy and Desi, were as shatteringly false as they were profoundly true. The friends that I had gotten to know — the ones that shared their life so vulnerably with me — would be gone. My ‘friends’ were no more, yet I longed to live in their company forever. 

In many ways, the characters in these stories raised me. Through their various idiosyncrasies, actions, and settings, they guided me through life’s most touching moments of universal beauty, kindness, and goodness. But despite the timeless beauty these characters often shared with me, I’d never know them. And at no point was this clearer than at the tale’s end.

Great stories have always been an area of deep conflict for me. On the one hand, they give us glimpses into real goodness, love, truth, and beauty. On the other hand, they’re finite, reminding me, as the old saying goes, that “all good things must come to an end.”

But while I understand that endings are necessary — as necessary as the turning of the seasons — they also seem entirely foreign.

Why must we, after encountering something truly beautiful, endure the pain of parting with it?

As a child, I felt isolated by this pain. It seemed to me that few shared this sadness — or perhaps few expressed it. While I wanted to revel in the beauty, goodness, and truth that I so often found in classic movies, books, and music, my classmates were more interested in Furbies, Shrek, and arguing about their favorite Spice Girl.

Years later, it still seems to me that most of my peers are more interested in spectacle, novelty, and diversion, than in heart-arresting beauty. Instead of savoring each taste of a beautiful story, ruminating on every flavorful facet, we rush to our smartphones to text a friend, watch the next YouTube video, or browse a feed.

Perhaps we’d rather numb out than allow ourselves to encounter true beauty and feel deeply the pain of our separation from it.

But what if this pain we’d rather not feel was actually a gift?

What if we were meant to feel it? What if it’s meant to remind us of something we’ve forgotten?

What if, behind the familiar faces of actors we know and love, behind the characters, scenes, and settings in our favorite stories, and beyond the aesthetic, there is something eternal that we catch glimpses of in great stories?

Maybe I’m just a maudlin victim of good storytelling. Maybe I’m easily manipulated by words, imagination, and emotion. Maybe I’m indulging in a sentimental fantasy. Or maybe, just maybe, there really is something deeply true, good, and beautiful that we catch glimpses of in great stories, something quite like heaven, where there is no time, and endings seem out of place.

Photo by Thandy Yung on Unsplash