Public Access

I’ve been rather torn about whether to write in this space about some very sad things that have been happening lately. My staid British upbringing tends to make me think that airing one’s personal sorrows in public is somehow ill-mannered, but weighing against that is my feeling that it is perfectly in keeping with the aim of this weblog to discuss universal human experiences, especially in the context of our struggle for inner growth and our wish to find meaning and harmony in our lives.

Last Friday I learned that my mother, who had been afflicted by nausea for a couple of weeks, has been diagnosed with advanced stomach cancer, and that the prognosis is very grim.

My mother (her name is Alison) is not old – only 70 – but she has been racked by rheumatoid arthritis for more than 40 years, and has been taking powerful steroid drugs for decades to control the disease’s progress. Such drugs have a destructive effect over time, and her health has been declining for quite a while. This, however, was completely unforeseen, and I am physically aching with sorrow. My mother is an extraordinary woman, a loving and gentle person of uncommon kindness, intelligence, and dignity, and I love her more than words can express. This is very, very difficult to bear.

In these extreme circumstances, when our complacent routine is upended, when the machinery of personality is thrown off the rails and down the embankment, we have, at grievous cost, a rare chance to see ourselves, and to glimpse the urgency of our own mortal predicament, if we can keep some part of our awareness above the waves.

My father and mother (yesterday was my father’s 80th birthday) have been married for 51 years. On Wednesday I will be flying to California to see them; my wife, son, and daughter will be joining us a day later. I’ll write when I can.

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  1. Thomas says

    Malcolm, all the best in the coming times!

    Posted February 28, 2006 at 8:33 am | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Thanks, Thomas. This sort of thing is inevitable, as we all know, but knowing that doesn’t really make any easier when the time comes.

    Posted February 28, 2006 at 11:28 am | Permalink
  3. David says

    Best wishes to your mom and you all.
    Let us know if we can help with anything (airport transportation, or…) while you are here in SD.

    Posted February 28, 2006 at 11:40 am | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    Hi David,

    Thanks so much. I was just about to write you to tell you about this.

    Not an easy time.

    Posted February 28, 2006 at 11:45 am | Permalink
  5. alex says

    Thinking of you Malcolm and feeling too far away, but we are hoping to come over as soon as we can, when we hear more etc, as we had obviously thought time was of the essence to come as soon as we could … I have been looking back at emails and found my way to your site and thoughts… it’s been good to read and we look forward to seeing you soon but also feeling sad. Good luck and give all our love to your mum & dad and family when you get there,

    love Alex x

    Posted February 28, 2006 at 2:58 pm | Permalink
  6. Malcolm says

    Why thank you Alex – what a nice surprise to hear from you. Yes, it’s a heavy blow. We’re dealing with it as well as we can.

    Love to you too.

    Posted February 28, 2006 at 3:04 pm | Permalink
  7. Cousin Pam says

    Oh, Malcolm, I am so sorry to hear this news. I have been there and know how heartbreaking it is. Please know you are in my thoughts and if there is anything I can do….
    I will let Corey and Justin know as well.

    I’ve been visiting your site on occasion since you and Susy mentioned it in your Xmas letter and it has been a wonderful opportunity to get to better know a family member with whom we have way too little contact. Perhaps we can remedy this.

    Best love to you all,

    Posted February 28, 2006 at 7:21 pm | Permalink
  8. Robert says

    Little to be said, Malcolm, but best wishes to you and your family. I wen through this three years ago, with my mother.


    Posted February 28, 2006 at 8:05 pm | Permalink
  9. Kevin Kim says


    Apologies for not seeing and responding to this earlier. I wish you and yours the best during these difficult times. It sounds as though you have a loving family– not just immediate family, either, but extended family as well (not to mention great friends). That’s heartening: you can rest assured that whatever trials lie down the road will not be faced alone.



    Posted March 2, 2006 at 10:48 am | Permalink
  10. Emma Bradford says

    Hi Malcolm, my condolences about your Mom. Thanks for the great rainbow pictures over Wflt — saw them posted on FB but yours are comprehensive! If you don’t mind my asking, what was the remarkable thing that happened when your Mom passed? Thanks & all best to you & your family. Emma

    Posted June 15, 2016 at 9:04 pm | Permalink
  11. Malcolm says


    You can read about it here.

    PS. Forgive me, but have we met? Your name seems so familiar. (It’s also a common name around here in Wellfleet.)

    Posted June 16, 2016 at 11:01 am | Permalink