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Terry Tempest Williams' Refuge Essay

1914 words - 8 pages

Terry Tempest Williams' Refuge

In Refuge, Terry Tempest Williams weaves together her experiences and relationships with family and nature, two major themes of Refuge, as well as two apparently important aspect of Williams’ life. The book is the story of the destruction of her family and the nature surrounding her, but it is these places that are being destroyed are the same places where Terry Tempest Williams finds comfort before, during and after cancer started to consume her life. I believe on the surface it is nature and family that provides her with comfort, but in actuality, it is something beneath the surface. As a young child, Williams was taught through the Mormon teachings to appreciate nature and family, finding God in both. It is through her Mormon faith that Williams is able to survive the pain, suffering and fear cancer causes her.

Williams describes the deep-rooted connection between her Mormon faith and her family in the opening pages of Refuge. Through her family, Williams supported her mother and grandmother through their fatal cancers, while acknowledging that her Mormon faith stresses family and community (Williams 13), providing Williams, her mother and her grandmother with a support network through these difficult times. The National Cancer Institute articulates the importance of this support to a cancer patient, suggesting, “that having good information and support services can make it easier to cope,” adding, “friends and relatives can be very supportive,” and concluding with the usefulness of support groups (NCI website www.nci.nih.gov). In Refuge, Williams shows her support by sacrificing her own achievements, stating, “I have traded my position as curator of education for naturalist-in-resistance, which means more time in the field, more time to write and more with mother” (Williams 126). Williams’ mother would accompany her during expeditions in the field as a distraction from cancer in her daily life, as well as using this time for the two to spend together. Williams became her mother’s support, spending the last few years of her mother’s life in an understanding relationship of support and connection. The support Williams gave her mother was essential in helping her mother cope with cancer.

Williams’ family support network eased her own pains caused by witnessing her mother’s and grandmother’s suffering with cancer, being a potential cancer patient herself. This support network, which the Williams’ family demonstrates, gives patients release of emotions that accompany cancer. The week after Williams’ mother was diagnosed with cancer, she stated, “I’ve experienced every possible emotion this week” (Williams 34). This build of emotion can be overwhelming for any one, making the release of emotions critical. A study done by the American Cancer Society found that releasing emotion is beneficial during treatment and can help patients and family members cope (ACS website www.cancer.org). The Mormon faith...

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