Cancer. It seems to be everywhere these days. Permeating our society until one day it’s someone you love that has it. Two years ago this became one of my aunts. Like others that I care about, I was hopeful that it would be quickly sent into remission with the right combination of surgery, chemo, and radiation. As a family that promotes thinking positively, we all treated it like a hurdle to cross before getting back to good. Yet, two months ago my aunt’s health began to rapidly decline. Her most recent round of radiation has taken a toll and every time we think she’s better the other shoe seems to drop.
Sharon Salzberg, a world famous mindfulness instructor, often says that human beings tend to hold on to what feels good and push away what doesn’t. When someone we love is suffering, we want to push it away and bring back the happier times. Where does that leave us?
What I’ve learned in these two years and through my mindfulness practice is that it leaves us exactly where it should — in the now. We can’t change the past — my aunt has cancer. We can’t predict the future. What we can do is be present for her and for each other now. We can acknowledge the suffering without being consumed by it. In so doing, we can create space for cultivating more love when we each need it most.
Visiting my aunt in the hospital today, this became clearer to me than ever. Her body was swollen and she was unable to talk, but her spirit was alive and well. She even suggested Facetiming my sister. We enjoyed joking around and sharing family stories.
The days are touch and go. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. We continue to be hopeful. What keeps us going is staying in the moment, appreciating the time we have together, and sharing it to the fullest with the people we love.