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I Light This Candle (Book Review)

winter 1998

From triple helix - winter 1998 - I Light This Candle (Book Review) [pp22-23]

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I Light This Candle - Mary Hathaway. - Arthur James,Berkhamsted. 1998. - 91pp. £4.99 Pb - all royalties to cancer research.ISBN 0 85305 476 2

This beautiful and profoundly moving book of prose, poems, prayers and reflections chronicles with great honesty and integrity Mary Hathaway's journey through despair and hope. Her story begins with her son's diagnosis of a rare form of cancer which required months of intensive treatment. As he recovered Mary was then told that her father had only days to live. A week after his funeral she herself began treatment for breast cancer.

Her writing brings to life often painful and sometimes terrifying feelings, expressions of 'pain, anger, despair, fear, weakness, panic, beauty, hope and love'. Most of all I Light This Candle is about Mary's relationship with a travelling companion who never left her, though it often felt to her as if he had, Jesus Christ. There are poems of lamentation and angry questioning -often echoing the Psalms and parts of Job. There are also outbursts of love and joy acknowledging that the cycle of faith requires both resurrection as well as death and dying. Thus whilst it is born out of pain the book is nevertheless also a story of hope. As such I have no doubt it will benefit anyone who is faced with the challenge of life-threatening illness as well as those who grieve.

My one hesitation is that of commending the book to the person who knows they are dying and for whom the possibility of cure expressed in the message from The Cancer Research Campaign might be just too painful. That said, Mary Hathaway has written with both courage and sensitivity, giving us a privileged insight into the experience of bereavement and cancer, one that can be shared with those who are going through their own times of darkness.

Reviewed by
Guy Harrison
(Chaplain, Dorothy House Foundation, Bradford-on-Avon)



More from triple helix: winter 1998

  • Editorial: premillennial tension
  • Is the life in the blood?
  • Stressed Out
  • A mind to change
  • Helping create healthier communities
  • Counting the Cost
  • Among All Nations 6
  • Eutychus
  • The Safe Sex Hoax (Book Review)
  • I Light This Candle (Book Review)
  • The Changing Face of Health Care (Book Review)
  • The Addiction of a Busy Life (Book Review)
  • Readers' Letters
  • RevieWWWs with Cyberdoc
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