My apologies for being a bit lax in writing blog entries. Over three months ago, my fiancee, Oi Yin, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Not only is Oi Yin only 39 years old, but she is also a young widow. Her story is unique and I am here to support her and offer her wisdom to others. I am sharing below the beginnings of her "ethical will" to her children. I admire her courage and wisdom and hope you find her words valuable in your own lives as well.
Wishing you all well...Jeff
Words from Oi Yin, my fiancee....
I was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February 2010. The devastation of this rare diagnosis and corresponding prognosis was horrible news. Making matters worse, and much more complicated, was that I had recently lost my late husband, Rafael, to lung cancer less than four years earlier. As a terminally ill young widow, I found myself having a very unique perspective. I needed to continue helping my children recover from their father's death while now facing my own.
These words and other entries that I share are intended as an ethical will to my children, Sienna, age 10, and Derek, age 7. It is a unique situation for two young children to be losing both parents to cancer. Going through bereavement with my kids took love and patience. I found I had to be really present as Sienna and Derek struggled through very complex emotions around the death of their father.
As I tried to process my own diagnosis and prognosis, I wondered who could be there to guide my children? Who would be there to hold them through the middle of the night and talk to them about why things happen? I have to accept that my children will struggle with feeling lost as a result of the passing of their father and their mother.
As I write this I know my children, as they grow up, will want their father or me to be there for them. This writing is one of the ways that I can do this. It is my hope that writing and leaving this for them will help them feel a little less confused and lost and provide them with some comfort. I hope you find it of value as well.
It is our responsibility as parents to foster mutual trust and safeguard it with our children. Honesty breeds trust and trust, in turn, breeds honesty. The best way to foster honesty in your child is to be ensure that you do not break one another's trust. My daugher, Sienna, age ten, and I say we never break trust with the people we love. The same goes for my seven year old son, Derek.
We value trust as precious because without trust you have nothing.
One of the scariest things I ever had to do was tell my two young children I had cancer. They had known all too well, how their father, a non smoker, had his body ravaged by metastatic lung cancer. But I also knew that I had to be open with them about my own cancer so that they would be open with me. If they see me being honest, that creates emotional safety so that they feel safe to share their thoughts and feelings.
Honesty can be challenging at times. Honest is not always automatic. It is an ongoing choice to live by. But at the end of the day, honesty is rewarding and the right thing to do. The more consistent you are in being honest, the easier it becomes for both you and your child to live this value. The resulting trust that you establish and maintain through honesty will naturally become a core value in your family.
Honesty gives you and your child a safe haven to communicate. You can't have strong communication with your child without having strong trust. The emotional safety that results from sound trust is a wonderful treasure shared by parent and child. To keep this safe haven alive and well, it is imperative to stay in touch with your true emotions and be open with your child. If you slip into overly "protecting" your child, this will lead her to close off from you.
At the same time, while being "real" is important, parents may wish to use discretion and be sensitive to a child's ability to handle whatever is shared.
Honesty and trust are gifts between parent and child that truly keep on giving. Children who value this trust will also value themselves. The more your child trusts herself, the stronger her self-esteem will be.
Message to my children:
Sienna and Derek, ever since you were able to speak Mama always said to you "We never break trust. Why? Without trust, we have nothing." Nothing meaning it can leave you feeling lonely, empty, and maybe even misunderstood. When you are honest with yourself and all those you come into contact with, you have nothing to hide. You are not hindered by a wall of deceit and you allow yourself the gift of being free to be exactly who you are inside and out. Honesty breeds trust from others, healthy relationships, and more importantly, it breeds a carefree conscience, which is a priceless gift no can give you except yourself.