Hope for the Terminally Ill

Well I remember the night I experienced unusual chest pains. I was afraid to go to sleep for fear I mightn't wake up the next morning.

I was not only worried about myself but also my family. I had two young children at the time and wondered how they would manage without me. I realized, too, how badly I wanted to complete some unfinished goals. I was scared.

Finally, I fell to sleep exhausted. The next morning I woke up feeling fine—much to my relief. The doctor's verdict? A dose of indigestion.

Not so fortunate was a close friend, Graham, who took ill suddenly and was rushed to hospital. Tests revealed cancer of the liver. The doctors did all they could but it was too late. Graham had always been active and achievement oriented, so the news was devastating. In the ensuing weeks I watched him struggle with and work through an entire gamut of emotions such as the following:

Shock. Initially there was the shock of his plight. Understandably it came as a terrible shock to Graham and his family when they realized the seriousness of his condition.

Fear. After the initial shock came fear—fear of leaving his wife and four children behind. How would they manage? Who would take care of them? Plus, there was the fear of facing the unknown, of walking a road not traveled before.

Grief. Then there was a stage of intense grief and sadness over leaving loved ones, and the terrible loss of his own life. At times his grief was profound. It helped to cry.

Depression. Mingled throughout were a few friends who tried to bring hope for healing. Graham pored over the books they gave him and read about other people's stories—all promising a sure cure. But as the reality of his situation hit home, he experienced deep disappointment and depression and had to work through these feelings as well.

My time is short. I want people
to talk meaningfully to me,
about our feelings and about
life. Nothing else matters now."

Anger. At times there were feelings of anger and resentment—anger at God and life because he was being snatched away in his prime.

At one point I asked Graham, "What is it like to be only forty-four and in your situation?"

After contemplating silently, he finally answered, "I feel cheated. I had so much more I wanted to do with my life and now it won't get done. I feel angry, frustrated, scared…."

Remorse. There were also feelings of remorse. He talked about how busy he had always been and how he hadn't spent enough time with his family. Finally he said, "As I look at my life, I can't help but wonder what have I done that has been really worthwhile."

These various stages of emotions and introspection were normal. They came and went, each overlapping the other.

Frustration. Through it all people came and went, too. Some talked endlessly without saying anything meaningful as a cover for their own insecurity in the face of death. Graham found this very distressing. Later he said to me, "My time is short. I want people to talk meaningfully to me, about our feelings and about life. Nothing else matters now." 

Continued on Page Two

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