JOURNAL 2: Mother Lies Dying

A complication or two – 1998

         Every families’ experience of death and the loss of their parents will be individual. Complication and complexities of their own family life and dynamics make this a virtual certainty, as do the many different causes of death. In our case there are some of the usual emotional complexities surrounding unresolved emotional issues that will colour how we cope with the death of our parents and the accompanying sense of failure, anger, shame and guilt.

         Additionally we have already faced cancer in our family. Our middle child, a child of nine when he was diagnosed, had brain cancer. Fortunately through quick action by a skilled team of doctors and surgeons, the brain tumor (ependymoma) was completely removed in an 8 hour surgery. This was followed by a course of 31 radiation treatments.

         Our son has been free of any sign of cancer for three years now, with every follow-up MRI showing clear, with no signs of reoccurrence. We have every hope that his will continue to be a success story, but with every cancer diagnosis in the family our fears are brought into sharp focus; as they are every time he has a headache or has a cold or flu.

         Currently I am in treatment for clinical depression. I have lost my job as a result, and am angry even while I try to recover and grieve over my own personal losses brought on my this chronic illness. While I share my doctor’s frustration and my poor response to the many different medications now available to treat depression, and to the lengthy course of psychotherapy, I am not as concerned about the need for a quick return to work as defined by the medical profession, my insurer (who has cut off my disability benefits) or my society.

         It is not just that I have a small cushion to give me much needed time to recover or the wonderful bonus I have in time I can spend with my kids, or with my aging parents as they face death. Society, the doctors, and my wife agree on the importance of work to my recovery, but tend to define it narrowly as what I have done before, or what will be easily recognized in the community by leaving the house to go to work with others every day in return for a regular pay cheque. Though it may be the easiest way to tell if I am “better”, it does not seem to be what I want for myself. Recognizing my own mortality in that of my parents, I want to make the effort to be a successful working writer at this point in my life.

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