My Father Has a Terminal Illness. What Can I Do to Uplift His Energy?


My father has terminal illness and over last few months have been frequent visits to the hospital. He has been deeply devoted to Mother Kali throughout his life and never has been a single day in his life when he did not pray. Now he is almost bedridden. How do I help him? How do I pray for him? What I can do to uplift his energy?

—Devika, India


Dear Devika,

Let us first begin with acknowledging that each of us, at some point in life, at many points in life (for some), must cope with illness and pain (whether physical or emotional). While it is difficult to have to watch a loved one suffer, it is helpful to have the right perspective on suffering lest we too suffer — but without helping the other person — and thus little is gained.

As a longtime and ardent devotee of Mother Kali, your father on some level of his soul knows that Kali brings both pleasure and pain, for she is, among other things, Mother Nature personified. Kali brings birth and death. A devotee of Kali seeks to accept Kali’s “gifts” equally for both are necessary for life itself. What is happiness without sorrow? Were life an untrammeled palace of pleasure and happiness for what purpose would we seek the Giver of Life?

In fact, it is through suffering that we are offered at least two opportunities: 1) to balance the scales of pleasure-pain, happiness-sorrow (i.e. work out our karma), 2) re-double our efforts and intention to find the solution to life’s mystery and duality by seeking the transcendent state of divine Bliss, to know God. Suffering thus acts as an incentive to seek the solution of suffering (just as did Lord Buddha). Thus suffering is 1) an integral part of the duality of life and thus cannot be avoided by anyone, and 2) Is the doorway through which we seek God as transcendent happiness. Thus Mother Kali’s dispensing suffering is intended to be a gift, not a punishment.

Having acknowledged, then, the deeper meaning of suffering, what this means for you is that the greatest thing you can offer your father is your love and, to whatever extent your life makes it possible, your living presence with him during this time. While of course, you can pray that his suffering be abated and while of course there are medications to ease the pain, you might also consider that, being as he is a devotee of Kali, you can pray that he accept his suffering with as much even-mindedness, wisdom and Kali-mindedness as he is capable of. It is even possible for a devotee to accept his suffering with gratitude and joy, though, I’ll admit, that is rare. Acceptance with peace of mind is more accessible to most people especially those who have lived a truly spiritual and good life.

When you are with him do you chant mantras or chants that he knows and loves? The Gayatri, for example? Have you expressed to him your love and gratitude? Are you sad when you are around him or do you try to be happy? Can you sit with him in quiet and in silence — just be rather than as so many relatives do who chatter nervously the whole time they visit a patient? Can you play some soft bhajans or mantras in his room (on a smartphone or other device)? Simple touching, too, can ease the pain: a head rub, arms and chest. Hold hands. Talk softly but also smile.

Envelope him in the gossamer net of your love and your own soul joy. In this way, you hold out for him the state of joy which awaits him in the astral world and which is the very nature of the soul. If you are sad and troubled, that communicates to him support for him to be sad and troubled. But if you share a calm acceptance, understanding, a quiet joy and the promise of joy, he can feel uplifted.

Also, make some psychic and conversational space for him to ask about or talk about his feelings or fear of dying. You can do this at quiet, reflective moments. You can quietly ask him, “What do you think is happening here to you?” Or, in some cases, “Are you ready to leave this world, father?” The specific words must be suited to both you and him and should be quietly respectful.

Remember this: you, too, will some day be in the same place as he. You must be strong both for him and for your own preparations for your final exam of life. Unmitigated grief or sadness will not help you or he, though in some cases, you or he have to go through this. As to grief, generally, don’t fight it; embrace it as the current reality which, like all emotions must pass along into nothingness and into their opposites, but don’t hold on to it. Let it work through you as naturally as rain in the monsoon; sun in the summer; wind in the Fall. As physical pain cannot be avoided, so grief or sadness cannot be avoided, but you can be present with it even calmly centered in the Self within.

Be of good cheer for life never dies. Life is the essence of creation. It simply takes new forms for the creation is Mother Kali ever-changing, ever singing a new song, ever offering new opportunities for wisdom and love, new opportunities to unmask her dance on the chest of the transcendent God!

May you both find peace and joy in your hearts and the blessings of Mother Kali in your souls,
Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA