For the sick, non-acceptance of their sickness is frequently synonymous with life -- not life as it is for them in their sickness, but life as it used to be for them or as they would like it to be again.

I saw this in the most heart-cutting way when my father at 82 suffered a stroke. An active man all his life, he was suddenly forced to adjust to spending day after day in bed or propped against pillows in a chair.

The stroke paralyzed his right side and left him with a slight slur in his speech, but his mind was unimpaired. From May when the stroke felled him until mid-August when a second stroke killed him, he struggled daily to walk and to will his right hand back into use.

He had no patience with doctors or nurses who attemped to make him relax and adjust and more or less resign himself. One doctor told me on more than one occasion, "Your father simply will not accept his conditon."

By the tone of the doctor's remarks, I found myself influenced, perhaps even recruited, to convince my father to accept what the doctors believed he should accept. On numerous occasions I explained that he would have to make the best of things with what the stroke had not touched, that we would always be near him, that there was still a lot to live for and even more to do.

I became a veritable priest of platitudes. My father just looked at me, never agreeing and never really disagreeing overtly, but he kept on trying, trying, trying to force his dead right side to come alive again. It was not until after he died that I realized that all my counsels about acceptance were like a sentence of death to him. His very resistance to me and to the doctors was proof to him that he was still his own man, not ours. Copyright (c) 1984, by Samuel Hazo; reprinted with permission.