Yesterday was the beginning of a week-long period we call “Fall Paramita” in my homeland, during which time we celebrate the lives of our ancestors. It is designated “fall” because there is another in spring.
The periods are set around Spring and Fall Equinoxes, when the sun rises from due east and sets in due west. As it is believed that we make a journey from east to west when we pass away, from this life to the afterlife, it is thought that the path to our ancestors is shortest on Equinoxes… and thus, these are the days chosen to reminisce about our families who have headed west.
This time around, I have been forced to ponder about when the preparation for this final journey begins, for the person passing away and for their families. I learned last month that my dear great aunt has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and has six months to live. She has no children, so my mother went to the doctors with her, but because her condition was much worse than we first thought, my mother decided it was best not to inform her of her prognosis.
Personally, I am very much opposed to this decision.
Maybe she is not as medically literate as my mother, but I think she deserves, at the very least, a choice on whether or not she wants to know.
And if she chooses to know, maybe we should not hide anything from her, even if some things will surely be difficult to hear.
Maybe we have no right to take away from her the time to prepare for her final journey.
But, my mother made me promise not to tell her anything. Yet, she insists I should call and visit her from time to time to cheer her up! It is a rather tall order, partly because I am still opposed to it, but also because I would not know how to smile at her or what to say to her. So, as you can imagine, I have not been able to bring myself to go see and talk to her. I feel so bad… *BIG SIGH*
There is a well-known (but also much debated) theory in psychology called the Five Stages of Grief, first proposed by Swiss psychiatrists E.K.-R., which suggests there are emotions the passing and their close ones go through when facing death. It says much of the earlier stages are filled with negative emotions such as denial, anger, and depression, but there is also hope in trying to extend life by receiving medical treatment and changing lifestyle, and in later stages comes acceptance of (and preparation for) the inevitable future.
As I re-studied this theory to scribble about it here (apparently, there are a few more stages since I first studied it in college, but anyhow), I suddenly realized something – maybe my mother is going through the early stages of grief? She says she does not want great aunt to feel scared or devastated, but maybe it is actually she who wants to deny feeling scared and devastated? I have always thought of her as a superwoman, but maybe even she has vulnerable moments?
Then, maybe it is my mother who needs to go through the states up to acceptance, if I am ever going to be able to convince her to give great aunt enough time to prepare for her final journey.
Maybe by working through all the emotions with her, I will also be able to come to terms better with the imminent loss of a dear one.
And maybe we will both be able to give such a proper send-off for great aunt when the time comes, she will have plenty of good stories to tell her husband, great uncle, waiting for her on the other side.
Mom, you were close to great uncle as well, so I think you would like that, would you not?
A last note: So long, Canadian novelist W.P.K., the author of the famous novel that was made into the movie I mentioned here. Maybe the way you went away is controversial, but I respect your choice to receive assistance to begin your final journey… RIP.