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Peace at Last

©2001 Marie-Lynn Hammond
First published in Chatelaine, December 2001

The woman was on a quest. She had left her bustling village and travelled hundreds of miles (okay, kilometres, if you insist) to arrive at a white house at the foot of a mountain. Like countless travellers before her, she was seeking spiritual enlightenment. Unlike those pilgrims of yore, though, she had found this place through the Internet. She was also on a tight schedule. She had exactly three days to achieve inner peace.

That woman is me, and such are the contradictions of soul quests in the modern age. I was searching because I had come to a point in my life where I could no longer deal with suffering – not my own so much as the suffering of others, both human and animal. Not that this was anything new. When I was a kid, my family made fun of me for refusing to swat flies. As an adult, I found that the sight of a homeless woman could haunt me for weeks.

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The Orphan Age

©2001 Marie-Lynn Hammond
First published in Chatelaine, July 2001

I’m walking up the hill again to the hospital in Summerland, B.C., where my mother is dying. It’s a chilly April morning, but the sun carries a brilliant promise of spring, a spring that we know she will not see, because the doctors told us, after discovering an unsuspected, virulent cancer, that she would be lucky to last a few days. It’s been twelve days now, and she is still alive, still conscious, still suffering.

My two sisters and I are suffering too. Not physically, but we’re all crazed, in shock. My mother is in her late 70s, but up until a month ago she had been healthy, vibrant, full of that joie de vivre that French Canadians are stereotypically famous for. My sisters and I have always assumed she would live into her 90s, as her parents did. And we love her very much. » Read more…

Creature Comfort

©2000 Marie-Lynn Hammond
First published in Chatelaine, July 2000

 

Oligodendroglioma. What an ugly word, I thought, when the doctor first pronounced it: an ugly word for an ugly thing that had just been found in my beautiful sister’s brain. We – the doctor, a nurse, my sister and her partner, my other sister and I – were all crowded into a small, windowless examining room at Toronto’s Princess Margaret hospital. I was already feeling claustrophobic. Now, that huge word, like the tumour it described, seemed to swell malevolently and swallow up whatever space remained between us. » Read more…