A year ago today, my father-in-law succumbed to prostate cancer.
It was a grueling 4-year battle that saw him deteriorate until all that was left of him was skin and bones. I still have no idea why his body began to mutate against himself.
Before the cancer, he was the epitome of health. At age 70 he worked vigorously and daily in his large garden. He ate (mostly) locally and organically, and in moderation.
He exercised his mind by hand-drawing architectural plans.
He was surrounded by beauty and love from his adoring wife, children and grandchildren.
But yet, cancer still seized him. I don’t know why.
Perhaps it was genetics; perhaps it was bad luck. But cancer came, and it didn’t let go.
Being at the center of a family going through an emotionally and physically exhausting experience such as cancer, I watched and wondered what would happen if we were in the States.
The process is similar: countless doctor’s appointments, MRIs, bone scans, chemotherapy, radiation, sweat, tears, meals being delivered by nearby family or neighbors, silent prayers for full recovery.
But yet the process felt different.
It is Written. “Maktoob.”
Behind every uttered prayer was a slight resignation in a higher being. Let this be Your way.
It wasn’t the TV commercials dotting the airwaves today: a series of faces saying “No” to cancer, demanding it to be obliterated from our vocabulary. This fighting spirit we have in the West, while intoxicating, can be famously distorted.
One of my favorite movies of all times is Slumdog Millionaire. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. Now.
The last words in the movie were “It is written.” Of course, the movie ends on a happy note.
The boy gets the girl and a million rupees. And we viewers think Maktoob is Arabic for “it is written.”
It also means “fate,” which we are trained to believe means happy endings in the West.
It was fate that the young lovers met! It was serendipitous that we found one another after all these years! Yes, fate can be beautiful.
But in the Old World, fate also means reality.
It means you take the good with the bad and that God Almighty (or any form of a Higher Being you believe in) wills it to be for you, in that particular instance.
You can fight, as my father-in-law did with rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, but in the end, cancer won. And it was fate.
Where’s my Hollywood Ending?
I write this entry with mixed feelings.
On the one hand, I find the lack of fighting spirit in the Mediterranean to be disheartening and weak.
On the other hand, there is a sense of peace in not struggling to be in control at all times.
If something is not in your hands, then why fight futilely? Why pretend we have a choice, when sometimes the road is already written?
This is what Fate means. It’s a quiet resignation that sometimes shit happens.
And as much as we all want a happy ending, sometimes it’s not in the cards.
Not at that moment or for that circumstance.
But there will be other happy endings if you choose to move where the story ends.
Life is the Gift
It has been a year since my father-in-law’s passing.
We share his words, his vivaciousness, and zest for clean living.
We do not cower in the shadows of his memory.
His toothy grin and wrinkled face in pictures are front and center in our living rooms.
We visit his graveyard all the time. His grandchildren have planted evergreen trees and Bougainvillea at the cemetery where he has been put to rest.
The trees grow, yet his memory will surely fade over time.
But we still do our best to remember his smile, his kindness, and his love for his family.
Life is a cycle that is all-too-well-understood in the Mediterranean.
There is no squeamishness about death.
There’s no way around it.
With every first breath, there is a last. Every beginning must find its end; life is to be celebrated.
Whether the life was cut short due to an accident or illness, it is irrelevant.
Because life itself is the gift. Not the end of the story.
Originally published on Sivana Spirit on July 25, 2016 http://blog.sivanaspirit.com/f-word-that-rules-our-life/