Coping with Terminal Illness


Several of my friends have remarked that my frankness about my mother's terminal illness is somewhat incomprehensible - especially for those who have never lost a parent.

First of all, it is beyond describing. It is excrutiatingly difficult and painful. I want my mother to live.

That said, there are guiding lights for me.

1. The Baha'i Faith, first and foremost. This past year, struggling with her cancer, has taught me what true reliance on God is. It ain't easy, that's for sure, but it has allowed me to let go of the control I so strongly craved and was desolate without. I think this is a large part of the struggle over losing a loved one.

2. Prayer. I see so much new meaning in prayer now. Turns of phrases such as "Make Thy beauty to be my food", which I always understood to be a request for detachment from things on this realm - now I read it as a request for my mother when she moves on to the next world. Not that either interpretation is invalid, but it is a new understanding of the possibilities of the power of the prayer.

3. Mimi. My grandmother, my mother's mother, passed away when I was one. She has had such a large influence on my life that I believe I can genuinely say that I do not think I would be where I am today, who I am today, without the relationship I have had with her - which has obviously not been the typical relationship considering she passed away 30 years ago. My connection to her is so strong, and through this I know that my own children will know their grandmother in the same fashion in the event that she isn't on this plane of existence to pamper them as grandparents do. This is not the end for me.

4. Finally, my mother. Her own frankness - having lost her mother in a similar fashion - has helped me go through the process that I have gone through. It highlights how much I rely on my mother, and also how much she means to me. Whenever she dies - be it tomorrow or 20 years from now - she will be missed by many more than just me for her wisdom, generosity, kindess and strong will, among other things.

That said, if you're still up for a long read, my mother is hosting an amazing dialogue over on her blog that highlights what a wonderful family we have. I suggest you have a peak - both at her entry and all the comments from my aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws and "out-laws" :-)


Amen Mara. For as long as I can remember (probably I was about 15) I have dismissed the notion of praying for desired outcomes as childish (and those who claim that prayer doesn't work, one is operating on the false principals of the other), though I've used it for guidance (or ignored it) when there was no other good decision making solution. Rather, so much of prayer is about our spiritual reality (and that of others). I wholly resonate with your above statement about prayer. There's a prayer that I found in Gambia that makes me feel the connection between Mimi, Jamali, and now it has become relevant to maman. I got your birthday card today, thanks:) The island is beautiful. I can't wait to see you (you may just have to drive down and visit.)

With you permission I would like to excerpt from this very moving post.

Mensch, I will be happy to pray for, very specifically, Maman to have the genetic marker!!! I understand what you are saying, but I think all prayers have their purpose and are heard.

And George, yes, you have my permission.

Hey Mara,

Does anyone in your family/friend circle have access to medical search engines like Pub Med? I don't know if it'd help, but U-W has an extensive journal subscription and I could poke around and see what I can find, if it'd help.

Amelia, we have been using Johns Hopkins University's website, as well as the National Cancer Institute's web site. Further, I have my friend Andre researching for me and he has found helpful websites for us, without us having to wade through what is and is not relevant.

I appreciate your offer. Certainly if you find anything I'd love to hear about it, but don't feel obligated. I'm pretty preoccupied with leaving the Baha'i World Centre right now - and feeling indescribably good about it!

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Mara published on October 31, 2006 7:32 AM.

Time To Go was the previous entry in this blog.

The Beauty of Leaving is the next entry in this blog.

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