Site Loader

The mortality talk : (i)

Image credit — Free Stock Photo (Google Images)

How do you discuss the finality of your parent’s life with your parent? How do you continue the dialogue resonating the nearing of one’s end? How does that conversation actually end?

There are two ways. You either shut them up, digress them from that chain of thought, adding a joke in the end to diffuse the tension. Or, you simply let them talk, do not say a word and patiently wait for them to let that thought go. In both the circumstances, you walk out into your room, shut yourself under a blanket and cry your heart out, until your eyes turn red and nose is too blocked for you to breathe.

I write this today simply to put words to my thoughts on Dad’s illness and its eventual outcome. I’ve played the scenario several times in my head in the past two years. And it’s never ended well.

Cancer, takes every inch of the strength, the determination, and the will power in you, to fight it. To see its face every time it recurs. To knock it down, and continue to live. Or as a teacher of mine terms it, the Sword of Damocles. It requires grit to walk with that sword hanging above you, every single day of your life.

But sometimes, that grit weakens. It weakens in the face of fatigue. You feel helpless, and that feeling builds on, until you finally say, enough. It’s better to die than live like this. You feel anger and frustration, and you place your hands in your head, crying. You’ve had enough. This isn’t worth it.

Dad’s beaten cancer thrice, without ever mentioning the end. It’s always been a roadblock, never the dead end for him. However, this time it is different. This time, there is no cure. This time, we fight to live better each day. Not knowing how many days there are exactly.

And so the mortality talk, every time it happens, has to have an immediate day’s chore to take care of. If one’s going to distract the mind from life’s impending doom, might as well do that with getting the house supplies. It sounds pretty weird to write it like this, but trust me, navigating on a productive job is a clean way of sweeping away the fatality discussion. It’s not the best, but it is definitely the easiest.

Getting to do something does not lessen the worry. It drives it away for the meantime.

The mind is a pod of activities, and one should always accept the thoughts churning through it, but not establish one’s identity based on a single stream in a given time.

Cancer can penetrate into every part of one’s life’s decision, but cannot make that decision. That power still lies with the individual himself/herself. And that is what Dad does a lot of times. Take decisions sidelining his worry of the disease. And that’s what keeps him going.

I’m finishing this post, having just returned from a drive with Dad, after having bought fruits, bread, milk, gotten a glass frame repaired. Dad’s sorting the day’s purchases in the right places, reminding me to eat an apple tomorrow. He’ll go on now to write tomorrow’s to do’s list, checking for what’s missing and what needs replacement in the house. He’ll rummage throw the store room, check on the milk placed on the gas, and slice me a sapodilla, as I write this.

It’s all okay. For now.

Hi, I’m Mariyam, thank you for reading my post. This is part of my series on finding positivity and decoding the ‘be positive’ attitude as my father fights through aggressive oral cancer.

If you liked it, you can read other posts on

You can also follow me on twitter @MariyamRaza for more. Much love 🙂

Mariyam Raza Haider

Leave a Reply


A journalist by training, Mariyam Haider is a writer and performance poet in Singapore.
She is the researcher of the book The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India’s New Gilded Age written by James Crabtree.
Her writing has appeared in Hindustan Times, Livemint, Feminism In India, New Asian Writing and Kitaab.

Latest Tweets