My eldest stepsister passed away on December 26th, 2015 because of stomach cancer. She was seventy-five years old. 3 weeks earlier, on 29th November 2015, her eldest daughter, aged 53 years old succumbed to breast cancer and passed away. Much earlier in 1989, her youngest brother (my step-brother) died of brain tumor/cancer at the young age of 32.
It was a trying moment for my stepsister’s family and my own family too. Why? Because she was like a mother to me and she looked after me and my sisters and brother after our mother passed away when we were very young.
My father married my mother after his first wife died at childbirth. My mother helped to take care of her young stepchildren, the eldest of whom was the stepsister I mentioned above. There were 8 of them, my step-siblings – 4 boys and 4 girls. My mom was very good to them and they loved her like their own mother. They called her ‘Mokde’ a short form of ‘Mak muda’ or younger mother’ in my language.
Soon, my mother had us – all 7 of us – 6 girls and 1 boy – but that didn’t mean she neglected her step-children. She took care of us all – all 15 of us all the same. I don’t know how she did it, but she did.
Then my father died when I was 10 years old and then followed by my mother’s death almost 4 years later. I was 14, the youngest, and my own eldest sister was just 21. The tables were turned and my eldest stepsister took over the responsibility of looking after us, including her own 6 children (3 girls and 3 boys). How she did it, I don’t know but she did, just like my mother.
Cancer is one of the biggest and worst robbers of all time. It robbed us of so many luxuries in our lives. Our health, our family, our happiness, our money and our sanity. I’ve seen so many people around me who has or had family members struck by cancer.
My best friend from high school died of breast cancer at the age of 35. She never told me about it, in fact, she never told anybody and told her family to keep it a secret. News of her death came to me a few days later via another friend whose brother knew her brother. I was shocked beyond words. Cancer robbed me of my best friend, her husband of his wife and her 4 children of their mother.
Another best friend had 3 deaths in her family – all from cancer. Her 15 year old youngest sister died of brain cancer. Her eldest sister died of breast cancer at the age of 45 and her own father died a few years later, also of brain cancer. How she and her whole family coped during their bereavements, I really do not know. But I felt pain in my heart just thinking about it. For one thing I know that God will only test people whom HE knows are able to handle it. God says in the Quran,
“Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope. He gets reward for that (good) which he has earned, and he is punished for that (evil) which he has earned.” [2:286]
As for the rest of us, let’s not take all our luxuries for granted. Be there for our loved ones. We can replace jobs and money, but not our loved ones. Our loved ones are one of the most important luxuries in life. So take good care of them and spend as much time with them as possible.