When I was in nursing school at UCLA and doing my cancer ward rotations, I was depressed. Not because I was working with cancer patients but because I was depressed. Growing up with mental illness and workaholic parents set that stage. School was my salvation, getting good grades, learning things that interested me, I mean really interested me, like physiology of the human body. The heart beating 24/7 no matter what kind of of physiology. Venturing into the cancer ward and not knowing what to expect, I was worried that dealing with death and dying would undo my joy from other aspects of nursing. Nothing like a thought leading you astray, because working with these incredible patients was the most inspirational and uplifting of my student nurse rotations.
I was so inspired I started to write short stories. Two of them won awards and one was published. I learned from cancer patients how to communicate from a different place and that showed up on the page. What was different? My light was on. There was one woman in particular whose eyes were so bright, her joy so contagious, that it forever changed me. She told me about Viktor Frankl and his experience in a concentration camp where he lost his entire family. He, a Viennese psychiatrist, had an epiphany that you can have everything taken from you but one thing; what you make your attitude. My patient’s attitude: I’m alive. Till my last breath. And till that last breath I’m going to live. It gave me chills. I fell in love with her. I fell in love with something else. Life.
Years later I met the real Ben & Sara, who I write about in my new book, His Name Was Ben. What I saw with my earlier cancer patient, that incredible spark of life, also manifested in Ben and Sara (both cancer patients). And, like Viktor Frankl, in the worst of circumstances, the unthinkable, there is life. Quality life. Writing the book was an incredible experience for I had to go deep, and in order to get there I had to work through a lot of barriers. Things like the feelings that shut my heart and that my ego covered up. The things that pained me and kept my boundaries closed. In writing there was a viewing of this pain and seeing that the only option is to let go and let life happen. I’ve heard that expression before, let go, let life in, but it was never experienced until I actually did it.
There’s no reason and no time not to love. The heart yearns for it. That light is in all of us—the magical spark of life that being in love opens us up to. Being in love isn’t just about an intimate relationship but being open to all that life offers whether it’s a dog you love, viewing a flower in bloom, holding hands with a best friend, or finding that special once-in-a-lifetime romantic connection. It’s what happens when the heart is truly open.
Paulette Mahurin lives with her husband Terry and three dogs, Max, Bella, and Lady Luck in Ventura County, California. She grew up in West Los Angeles and attended UCLA, where she received a Master’s Degree in Science.
While in college, she won awards for her short-story writing and was published. One of these stories, Something Wonderful, was based on the couple presented in His Name Was Ben, which she expanded into this fictionalized novel in 2014. Her first novel, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, made it to the Amazon bestseller lists and won awards, including best historical fiction of the year 2012 in Turning the Pages Magazine.
Semi-retired, she continues to work part-time as a Nurse Practitioner in Ventura County. When she’s not writing, she does pro-bono consultation work for women with cancer, works in the Westminister Free Clinic as a volunteer provider, volunteers as a mediator in the Ventura County Courthouse for small claims cases, and involves herself, along with her husband, in dog rescue.
Profits from her books go to help rescue dogs.
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