Friday, January 4, 2008

A Gift from Illness

From William Harryman
Integral Options Cafe

Back in 2002, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Uterine cancer. Ninety percent fatal. She was 72 years old, tired, and ready to rest. She didn't want to fight it.

After I was about the age of five, she and I had not been close. She was the person who cooked, cleaned, and did laundry. Little more. For a variety of complicated reasons, I never expected anything more than that. She was my "mother," but I never really thought of her as a "real" person. The same way many children and parents never see each other as who they really are, but as the roles they play in the family dynamic.

I called her many times while she was in the hospital, since I was unable to get to where she lived. My partner at the time, Kira, also spoke with her. Somehow, during these conversations, she decided to live. And she did. The cancer was removed, the chemo and radiation worked, and she went into remission.

The realization of her impending death changed how I looked at her. I saw her as a person for the first time in my life, weird as that may sound. I thought about how she had become the person she was, the strength she must have needed to survive the life she experienced, the ways she had loved me when I didn't in any way deserve it.

She had three more years before the cancer returned and claimed her life in 2005. During that time I was gifted with the opportunity to know her, really know her, for the first time in my life. I can't imagine a better gift. Finally getting to know her changed me in profound ways. It's too bad that for so many of us, it takes a crisis to see things as they really are.

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