Back in November of 2012, when I had my five-day inpatient radiation for my ocular melanoma, there wasn't a lot I could do for entertainment. I couldn't have visitors for very long for fear I'd irradiate them. I could and did read with my good eye, but you can't do that all day, every day. So I went for the occasional stroll around the unit with the rest of my eye patch posse, and I watched a lot of TV. In the process, I discovered two shows I'd heard a lot about but never seen before: The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother. I fell in love with Big Bang because I love me some quirky smart boys. But I grew to love HIMYM even more.
Part of it was that the gang on the show seemed to get along so well, you wanted to be friends with them, too, to be in on the inside jokes, to have a special bar and a special booth and people waiting for you there who just got you. But as I realized some little while later, the show also appealed to me for a different reason.
At that point in time, so much in my life was uncertain. I didn't know if the radiation would shrink the tumor. I didn't know if my vision would return. I had no idea what lay ahead. And here was this TV show from the future. No matter what happened in the episode I was watching, whether Ted had a horrible blind date or got left at the altar, I knew things would turn out okay for him. Because the episode was being told from the vantage point of Ted in 2030, speaking to his children. Who could not exist if he hadn't met "The One" and gotten his happy ending. So as I lay there in my hospital bed, surrounded by scratchy, wadded-up hospital tissues and my uncertainties, I knew one thing Ted didn't while he looked for love: everything was going to be just fine in the end. When I got out of the hospital, I watched reruns of the show on my lunch hour until I'd seen them all. Every Monday I waited eagerly for the next new episode. And I clung to the certainty of that happy ending like a life raft.
Here's the thing about life rafts: there's never room for everybody to fit on them.
(In case your TV and internet are broken except for the eye tumor channel, here's your spoiler alert.)
The Mother is dead, of some unspecified "sickness." She's been dead for years. Ted got ten wonderful years and two beautiful kids with her. But then she died. And it looks like Ted finds happiness again, with his children's encouragement, with the girl he fell in love with in the first episode of the show. They didn't work then. But time moves on, and people and circumstances change. So now, maybe they do.
I'm not going to lie to you: I was not pleased last night when I watched the series finale, even though I predicted something fairly close to this. But I was hoping for a sitcom happy ending: Marshall and Lily stay happy, and so do Barney and Robin. Ted meets Tracey, the Mother, and they stay happy too, and everyone is happy together.
That's how it works in sitcoms. But that is not how it works in life. So the writers of the show did something brave. Everyone in the show got their happily ever after, even if for most of them, it didn't look like they imagined. But they did not get their perfectly ever after. Because in life, really, who ever does?
I don't attach any predictive value to what happened in the show as regards my own situation. I might die, because cancer. Also, I might not. But the show gave me faith in happy endings when I needed it. And when I needed to be reminded that happy doesn't equal easy or trouble-free, it gave me that, too.