There are some relationships that redefine us, change who we are fundamentally and set us on new paths we never thought we’d go down. Those are the best ones, the relationships that challenge us and transform us, strengthen us and light us up.
For Elizabeth Gilbert, Rayya Elias changed everything.
The wildly successful author of—among other books—Eat, Pray, Love was for a long time known by the narrative of that memoir. Divorce husband, travel, meet dreamy new husband, live happily ever after. But in 2016 Gilbert shook up her life for love once more, and announced she was leaving her husband.
A few months later, she revealed she was in love with her long-time best friend Rayya Elias, who had been diagnosed with cancer. Gilbert, always one to follow her heart and seize every moment, said the news of Elias’s diagnosis opened a “trap door” in her heart that her “entire existence fell straight through”.
“Death—or the prospect of death—has a way of clearing away everything that is not real, and in that space of stark and utter realness, I was faced with this truth: I do not merely love Rayya; I am in love with Rayya. And I have no more time for denying that truth.”
In the year and a bit that followed, Gilbert and Elias regularly shared their love with Gilbert’s large and loyal social media following. Theirs was a generous, contagious, joyous love. One that could make even the biggest cynic believe fairytale romance could be real.