Monday, April 2, 2012

Final Journal Entry

In her Hippocrates journal, Rahima wrote:

Mar. 17, 2012 
Sometimes this seems so hard (and the probability of my dying anyway, so clear) that I think, hey, screw all this. I think I will just take it easy, eat what I want and go more easily toward death.
And then it all shifts again and I dream about marrying Andy, having a long and active life, seeing my children get married, having grandchildren.
And then that becomes a tidal wave crashing over me, telling me that it's a fool's dream.
Two things seem clear (beyond wanting to live — which is also clear).
  1. I need some joy to my days — whether I am doing the program or not.
  2. I want some clarity soon. I am praying for it. Either a turning in my health improving OR a clear sign that death is coming.
This proved to be Rahima's final journal entry. We returned home to Greenfield, Massachusetts, and the symptoms of her metastatic breast cancer intensified, mainly overall weakness and diminishing capacity to breathe. She had her sign. Rahima died at home at 10:54 P.M. on Tuesday, March 27, 2012. We are still in the afterglow of a community memorial service that was held yesterday. In the summer, her ashes will be scattered in the sea at her "mermaid put-in spot" in Scituate, Massachusetts where she was raised.

Earlier in the Hippocrates journal, Rahima outlined the book that she planned to write: "Embracing Life: How to Live With a Terminal Diagnosis." If she beat the odds of dying from triple-negative metastatic breast cancer—what she described as a speck of sand on the beach—she envisioned a new consultant career, inspiring people to live well in the face of death.

Rahima did live well, exceedingly. This blog is my attempt to illuminate just how she lived. It is mainly for myself that I undertake this work. I sorely want to remember how Rahima loved me, how she loved life.

I recognize too that there is a community that formed around the concern for Rahima's health, first with the fractured hip that mended and then with the progression of the disease that took her life. I am willing to continue that conversation, to share with you what I have seen and learned, and I am open to continuing the conversation.

Our CaringBridge journal began on February 7, 2011, after Rahima slipped on the ice on the way to a contra dance and severely fractured her left hip. It traces her recovery process to the point of a near-complete healing without surgery. The story continues on February 1, 2012 in the aftermath of medical findings that breast cancer for which she was previously treated had metastasized. In this fourteen-month period there were more than 15,000 visits to the site, mostly in the last two months.



  1. I think it's totally awesome for Andy to be willing to continue this conversation. It has meant a lot to me to be part of the process. I have been moved to tears with the way both he and Rahima wrote so openly about their thoughts, concerns and feelings over the last month or so.
    I was totally thrilled to be part of her memorial service. Going in, since I am not a member of the Sufi faith, I had no idea what to expect. I am SO glad I went and was enlightened and felt my heart and soul being lifted with feeling throughout. I'm glad I went and will cherish Andy's friendship and the memories of Rahima.
    -Jonathan Sandstrom

  2. Write on, Andy, Brother Traveler

  3. Thank you to all family members, for such open-hearted sharing of your memories, joys, and suffering with us--The Larger Human Family.
    May we continue to know what to do, and how to support each other.
    Jonathan, much appreciation for acknowleging the courage of Spiritual people to reach out across the lines of our various religious traditions. I am pagan. Rupa's dervish dance left my heart full to overflowing. There has been much power in Rahima's willingess to BE CONSCIOUS as she made this great transition. This blogspot will likely be a place to share the magic (my spiritual word for what is happening now) of signs, portents, and new possibilities in Sufi-inspired heart connection that have been catalyzed by Rahima's death, as well as a place where memories of her life can be shared.

  4. Andy, Blessings on this part of the journey. It has been an honor and a privilege to be a witness and part of the community that holds you. Remember: Breathe! with love light and laughter, Devorah

  5. Andy,

    You strike me as hugely brave and loving for keeping vigil. We will walk this path with you.

  6. Dear Andy,

    Pray this finds you imbibing the warmth of the sunshine.

    Please, Feel our Love enfolding you now as the commotion and duties and protective numbness fade and day to day begins to be again.

    Thank you for your caring, creativity, and genius in constructing such a beautiful and thoughtful site for us to continue our journey with you.

    Sending you a radiant hug with a splash
    rippling outward from the mystery of its depths.

    Peace and Blessings Ever Onward,


  7. Andy,

    What strikes me about the title of Rahima's imagined manuscript: in a sense, we all live with a terminal diagnosis. I don't mean to trivialize the devastation of receiving an actual terminal diagnosis or the physical suffering of dying from one, but, I find it helpful to remind myself that my existence on this plane has an end point and I don't know when that end will come. Just as suddenly as if I had been told I had a fatal illness, I realize there is no excuse for squandering even a single moment.

    What also strikes me: Rahima cannot write the book, but those of us who are still on this plane can "write the book" when we choose to live well in the face of a death that will inevitably come. You are admirably "writing the book" -- both figuratively and literally. Thank you for that.

    Amanda Smith