Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pain and hope

Several years ago my aunt passed away after a fairly long struggle with cancer. She was a people person, very energetic, helpful, and tough. But towards the end of her illness, she was reduced to a skeleton and bed-ridden in a hospital. I went to see her several times, read the Bible to her, and explained to her what faith is about. She liked my reading the Bible to her and eventually put her faith in God a short while before she passed away.

I was surprised by how bad I felt. When I realized that she had left the world, it felt much more than sadness. Feelings such as sadness are supposed to be mental processes. Yet I felt so bad that it was physically painful. I was reasonably fit, having been running weekly and playing other sports fairly regularly. But it felt like a heavy weight was placed on my chest. I have since learned that mental processes and physical sensations can trigger the same circuitry in the brain. So it is possible that extreme sadness can have similar effects on the body as physical pain. Eventually the hope that I will see my aunt again gave me some comfort.

Last week my uncle started chemotherapy for cancer.

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