Dear Mind Matters,

I need your advice.

I am the oldest of three children and the first to attend college. I recently discovered that my mother has a terminal illness. During a recent visit home, she made me promise that I would stay in school and finish the semester. I don’t want to disappoint her, but I feel terrible.

My mother means everything to me. Should I do as I promised or leave school to spend more quality time with her? Mama’s Son.

Dear Mama’s Son,

Parents hold a special place in the hearts of their children and likewise children hold a special place in the hearts of parents.

During challenging periods, we must find the internal strength to move forward. My prayers are with you as you deal with your mother’s illness.

Based on your comments, your mother does not want your college routine interrupted because of her illness. She is probably extremely proud of the fact that you are attending college and will be the first family member to earn a college degree.

By advising you to stay in college, your mother seems to be giving you permission to pursue your dream without feeling guilty for doing so.

In fact, she may feel guilty if she thought that her physical problems in any way interfered with your goals. Therefore, give considerable thought to the consequences of breaking your promise.

There are many ways to maintain close contact with your mother: telephone, letters, e-mail and weekend visits as frequently as possible.

I recommend that you share with your mother how you feel about her, her illness and update her on your life.

I have worked with several terminally ill patients and most of them have shared with me that what they want most from family members is open communication and for them to maintain as normal a lifestyle as possible. If you haven’t already done so, discuss your dreams with her, share your short and long term goals, reminisce, laugh together, cry together and express mutual love.

Finally, you may find comfort by talking with your siblings as well as talking to a counselor at the Center for Human Development (599-3145).

Sharon Dennard is a counselor at the FAMU Human Development Center. She holds a doctorate in psychology. She can be reached at mindmatters@famu.edu.