Survivor Stories
Andrew Mai

“[Poetry] seemed like the best way to express some of the things that were going on for me.”

Today, Andrew serves as the medical director of a hospice care facility in Ottawa. His profound compassion is, almost literally, palpable. It is also memorialized in the numerous obituaries in which loved ones of deceased hospice patients specifically thank Dr. Andrew Mai for the care he bestowed on their dying relative.

Where was that profound compassion born?

Before the age of 29, had you asked Andrew if he had been sexually abused, he would have said no. But there always had been strong emotional clues. In his 30’s, the clues adhered into memories of sexual abuse.

Those memories rocked Andrew, but they also began to make sense of lifelong patterns – scripts – that had ruled his life. The near-constant feeling of shame; “people who are trying to get close to me are just trying to hurt me;” “I’m worthless;” “I am not deserving of compassion or respect;” “there is danger, everywhere.”

“These were the lenses through which I viewed the world, made my choices.”

There were years of work, “shoveling through mountains of grief, day after day.”

Andrew kept shoveling. He poured his pain and grief into his poems, and he committed himself to a serious practice of meditation, something that he continues to this day. That commitment has yielded a clarity that manifests itself in simple statements of crystalline meaning. And it has yielded transformation, as in this closing stanza of one of Andrew’s poems:

light over darkness,
love over pain,
necessity over fear
life over death
each moment present, complete and whole.
each moment lived in love,
each moment a moment of joy and discovery.
each moment …a wondrous instant to be lived and shared.
and I am blessed to be on this path.