Face-To-Face With Mortality

Face-To-Face With Mortality.

Adrian was 35 years old and married to Janice. They were into their third year of marriage and had a son, Tom, barely two years old. At the encouragement of their pastor, they first came for counselling when a biopsy taken from Adrian’s stomach was positively malignant. He was scheduled for more investigative procedures the following week, and they were both fairly distraught and depressed. The surgery revealed a virulent form of carcinoma that had spread throughout his abdomen in its 4th stage. They were devastated! Adrian opted to undergo radical surgery with intensive radiation, and accompanied by a series of chemotherapy. He tolerated his treatment rather badly, and lost a lot of weight. Tom was staying with Janice’s parents, as the couple’s regular hospital visits and coping with the effects of treatment preoccupied them. Thankfully, their church’s care group took turns to provide their warm meals each day.

The acute traumatisation from their discovery of Adrian’s malignant tumour was very real. Nothing prepared them for this phase of their lives, as there had been no apparent history of the disease on both sides of their immediate families. Adrian spiralled into a depression; he closeted himself away and refused to speak with anyone. Janice, tried to put on a brave face, but when alone in my office, she broke down repeatedly. Four months after his surgery, further tests arising from a gnawing abdominal pain, resurfaced the spread of the cancerous growth in his colon and duodenum. The doctors’ prognosis was not hopeful. Suddenly, Adrian and Janice came face-to-face with what they feared most.

Treatment ceased, and Adrian went further into his seclusion, and would not even talk to his wife. Janice reported that whenever she spent time with Tom, the little boy would not let her out of his sight, and threw a tantrum and cried bitterly whenever she was due to leave her parents’ home. Janice was torn between looking after Adrian and giving Tom the attention he needed. Tom’s insecurity at this time was understandable. The strain was telling as Janice’s weight plummeted and it became more noticeable. At Janice’s prodding, I made a house call. Adrian was not too forthcoming in his response to my probing. I ended up just sitting next to him, and talking to myself once in a while.

A presumption that life will go on uninterrupted in this world, unfortunately, is deluding. To ignore the reality of our mortality is to fail to seriously orientate ourselves toward its certainty. Mentally and perhaps unconsciously, death may have lost its sting, but it can overtake us anytime, and quite unexpectedly too, as life is rather fragile and short. Being confronted with our imminent mortality is never a simple matter, when our roots are sunk deep into this world and its affairs, and where our later regrets may offer only cold comfort. There is an extant need to appreciate the gift of life, and those who are dearest to us – a blessing to us in our walk together in this world. Love them deeply and generously, without regrets. Be ever grateful for life and thankful to the Giver of all life.

Another two weeks passed, and Janice called to say that Adrian had requested to see me. He talked about his assumptions of a good life, and helplessness to further provide for his young family. He was the main breadwinner. As the loss cycle kicked in, both their present and potential losses were processed, and their faith strengthened.