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He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Life plays White and Pain plays Black, as if in chess –  two opponents determined to proceed and win the game for ‘patient’s life. “A chessboard” is set up once someone’s deemed to have a close shave.

“Thanks God,” I thought, “the ambulance arrived in time at mother’s house.” I saw her very weak but still alive.

‘Severe case of dehydration and fever. A rectal cancer diagnosed, Stage IV – ‘bad news. The doctor said for surgery - too late. An older adult, she was prescribed some oral rehydration therapy and rest. I took her home. Lviv Cancer Centre doc advised a graded list of drugs – the opioids in case the pain attacked.

My mother, 82, a grandma of my kids, 'respected high school physics teacher, retired long ago, was puzzled why the hospital refused to have her as a patient. However, she carefully took each word the doctor said concerning ‘menu like a law. Eventually, she would recover, she believed.

I didn’t hide the truth about her condition, yet, she wasn’t willing ‘take it as it was.

‘Physician, asked in May about life expectancy, assumed that mom could probably survive another month or two. Well, maximum - a year. All in God’s hands. In fact, what shocked me most was to learn that cancer patients end their life in ‘agonizing pain; the opioids might help - one need have them prescribed immediately. I looked at mom and asked about her.  Complaints of hers were different.

A half a year earlier, the wedding of my son, ‘EM physician, had been planned for August. Consequently, all our relatives kept asking whether the event was going to be cancelled.

Life was just chaos rather than a plan, and Black checked White. So White retreated, relying on some strategy and faith, and kindly asking ‘dear patient to do her best and fight the end.

I’m questioning the right to act like that since from ‘perspective of today – it’s rather egoistic.

In fact, my mother managed to pull through, to please us all, to live as long as needed. How implausible! Nonetheless, her grandson’s wedding happened on the date we planned.

Soon after, she felt worse. I moved with her to ‘parents’ place, still haunted by ‘prediction of the doc.  I thought, “Black might checkmate. I won’t be ready to defend her from the painful end.”

The days went by, and mom accepted 'thought of dying.

What is this life without hope for better? Is it worth living when you suffer day by day?

Then once again I heard her moan when drinking an electrolyte, which obviously didn’t fit her body anymore. It was unbearable to see, to hear her striving. I said she could reduce the intake of her drink. My mother didn’t even blink, just paused. First, 'looked confused but then relieved.

The end was getting distinct, arriving with velocity of light. She got completely weak and barely breathing. I called a doctor. She confirmed painkillers. That very night we needed them.

Oh my! What for a human being so nice and humble like my mom was punished with that pain?

Next day, I asked the doctor to prescribe her something “stronger,” I called the kids and ‘brother.

The time was slipping out of my hands, my head, my space. I tried to grasp control. She didn’t have a drop of water, and felt no need. Another night with even bigger pain; I made her swallow ‘remedy in capsule, then again…like that till ‘morning. Saturday.

My son arrived to help at night. His granny gave a nod to show she recognized him. Her look seemed wondering, not focused, almost out of this world. Grandson injected medicine, the only one available at home in ampules by the time. Too little help. She slept just for a while and then again was crying out in pain. Unbearable to listen, impossible to go through. ‘Was obvious, on the threshold of consciousness, she was unable to resist the pain. Another dose of countermeasure was forced to get inside, somehow helping her to be insensitive to pain, to drift again.

On Sunday evening all the closest family arrived to say goodbye. My brother travelled far, my daughter managed too, and two of us: my son and me – we all were there. Was mom aware? I guess she was. They talked to her, she seemed asleep, then somehow opened misty eyes, and made an effort ‘move her hand to pat granddaughter’s head. So sad, so touchy. I’m glad she knew we loved her, so did she.

Still Life and Pain were in that nasty game of senses. We called the ambulance.

Surprisingly, they had no opioids. No one expected that.

However, they administered the maximum they had: some medicinal substance. That’s all.

We hoped to survive till Monday morning, and then to get “harsh” medicine prescribed, but night…The night was short or long, impossible to say.  My mother broke the silence with a howling sound, and, gaining consciousness, with all her might she mumbled two last words, “Help me.”

With that being heard, I opened ‘drug in 'capsule, fetched some water and nervously dissolved the powder, filled ‘syringe. My brother tried to keep mom fixed as she refused to drink. Because of that I had to squeeze the medicine into her mouth; and she exhaled, and fell asleep (I thought) so peacefully.

On Monday morning, we managed to obtain ‘required physic and came back to see mom sleeping still.

“I think that granny is in ‘coma,” said my son.

And he was right. No pain, no move – she seemed in peace with ‘universe, so calm, and soon stopped breathing. Seemed, the heaven let her in for good so as to flee the pain.


‘White dove has landed on my window with the rays of light, brought back the memories. As long as mother had her “why” to live, she handled “how.” She passed away in ‘lethean dream; “the letheon” smashed all the physics of her pain and carried to the metaphysics of eternity. Amen!


Lana M. Rochel is the pen name for a writer, poet, lyricist, and podcaster whose work has appeared in BFS Horizons, the Haiku Pea Journal of haiku and senryu, Adelaide Literary Magazine, Redemption: The best rejected manuscripts of 2020 anthology, LitStream Literary Magazine, the 2021 Dwarf Stars anthology, Academy of the Heart and Mind, and pending in The Journal of Undiscovered Poets

Qualified English teacher, Lana writes creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, song lyrics, and children’s.

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