The importance of love and family is a driving force in If I Stay, as many of the choices and sacrifices made within the novel are done for the sake of loved ones. However, love can also complicate these decisions, and can sometimes be the very thing that must be sacrificed. Thus, characters in the novel must balance making decisions for the sake of love, while also understanding and learning when they must let love go. They subsequently learn how to cope with the loss of someone or something they love.
If Mia chooses to stay, she will live on with Adam, Kim, Gran and Gramps, as well as her musical future. However, she will also have to cope with the loss of Mom, Dad, and Teddy for the rest of her life. Similarly, if she pursues the cello at Juilliard, she will be separated from Adam by distance, which will possibly cause the end of their relationship. In choosing to continue her own life, Mia makes the sacrifice of losing her parents and also sacrifices the peace that would come with her death. She must gain the strength to make one decision and cope with the other difficult choices that inevitably arise as a repercussion. These reverberating decisions, she realizes, are one of the complexities of life.
Mia’s grandfather, Gramps, her father’s father, whispers to a comatose Mia that while he wants her to live, he will accept and understand if she wants to give up fighting. Gramps is the only character who expresses this kind of understanding to Mia (Adam, Kim, and other loved ones want her to keep fighting). While Adam and Kim want their friend to stay alive, Gramps acknowledges that living in a world without her family would be very painful for Mia. Mia, in her coma, wishes that he could be a kind of “death proxy,” and make the decision for her. Yet, of course, Mia is the only person that can make this choice for herself, signifying the fact that as one grows up and gains more responsibility, parents and grandparents can no longer make all the tough decisions on behalf of their children. A strong bond of love and understanding, however, means family members and loved ones will support each other on whatever path they choose.
In Mia’s flashbacks, we see that Mia is distraught when she realizes that her best friend Kim and boyfriend Adam do not become fast friends when Adam and Mia begin dating. However, Kim and Adam are unperturbed by the fact that they do not immediately bond over their mutual love of Mia. The non-relationship between Kim and Adam is symbolic of the discrete parts of life that don’t always have to connect to still make a person whole. These separate parts of her life do come together when Mia’s loved ones attempt to convince her to stay, however—Adam and Kim bond as they cope with Mia’s coma. It is then that Mia realizes how the separate parts of her life, regardless of their lack of intersection, make her life whole. A family, the novel suggests, like a rock band or classical orchestra, functions best when each distinct part serves to support the group, while remaining true to its individuality. It is harmony, not homogeneity, that creates the perfect blend. Thus, If I Stay argues that a fulfilling life is inherently composed of complex relationships and the different kinds of love they require.
Love, Family, and Relationships ThemeTracker
Love, Family, and Relationships Quotes in If I Stay
Just like with Shooting Star’s meteoric rise, my admission to Juilliard—if it happens—will create certain complications, or, more accurately, would compound the complications that have already cropped up in the last few months.
I know it’s silly but I have always wondered if Dad is disappointed that I didn’t become a rock chick. I’d meant to. Then, in third grade, I’d wandered over to the cello in music class—it looked almost human to me. It looked like if you played it, it would tell you secrets, so I started playing. It’s been almost ten years now and I haven’t stopped.
As usual, there is a battle for stereo dominance. Mom wants NPR. Dad wants Frank Sinatra. Teddy wants SpongeBob SquarePants. I want the classical-music station, but recognizing that I’m the only classical fan in the family, I am willing to compromise with Shooting Star.
Sometimes I did feel like I came from a different tribe. I was not like my outgoing, ironic dad or my tough-chick mom. And as if to seal the deal, instead of learning to play electric guitar, I’d gone and chosen the cello.
A small part of me felt like even applying was some kind of betrayal. Juilliard was in New York. Adam was here.
When we got back home, Gramps dropped me off and enveloped me in a hug. Normally, he was a handshaker, maybe a back-patter on really special occasions. His hug was strong and tight, and I knew it was his way of telling me that he’d had a wonderful time. “Me, too, Gramps,” I whispered.
“Mia, Mia, Mia,” he said, stroking the tendrils of my hair that had escaped from the wig. “This is the you I like. You definitely dressed sexier and are, you know, blond, and that’s different. But the you who you are tonight is the same you I was in love with yesterday, the same you I’ll be in love with tomorrow. I love that you’re fragile and tough, quiet and kick-ass. Hell, you’re one of the punkest girls I know, no matter who you listen to or what you wear.”
“Look, I accept Adam because you love him. And I assume he accepts me because you love me. If it makes you feel any better, your love binds us. And that’s enough. Me and him don’t have to love each other.”
And that’s how I know. Teddy. He’s gone, too.
“In my ideal scenario, my bighearted pushover husband and I die quickly and simultaneously when we’re ninety-two years old…Mia plays at our funeral. If, that is, we can tear her away from the New York Philharmonic.”
“It’s okay,” he tells me. “If you want to go. Everyone wants you to stay. I want you to stay more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life…But that’s what I want and I could see why it might not be what you want. So I just wanted to tell you that I understand if you go. It’s okay if you have to leave us. It’s okay if you want to stop fighting.”
“I’d played that part of my life out. It was time. I didn’t even think twice about it, in spite of what Gramps or Henry might think. Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you. Does that make any sense?”
“…I do know that if you want to stay and be with him, I’d support that, though maybe I’m only saying that because I don’t think you’d be able to turn down Juilliard. But I’d understand if you chose love, Adam love, over music love. Either way you win. And either way you lose. What can I tell you? Love’s a bitch.”
So I played. And even though you wouldn’t think it, the cello didn’t sound half bad with all those guitars. In fact, it sounded pretty amazing.
“I can lose you like that if I don’t lose you today. I’ll let you go. If you stay.”
Yo-Yo Ma continues to play, and it’s like the piano and cello are being poured into my body, the same way that the IV and blood transfusions are. And the memories of my life as it was, and the flashes of it as it might be, are coming so fast and furious. I feel like I can no longer keep up with them but they keep coming and everything is colliding, until I cannot take it anymore. Until I cannot be like this one second longer.