Hand holding compost with redworms. A farmer showing the worms in his hands at Chuadanga, Bangladesh

When you are born, Daoist lore says, three spirits enter your body. Depending on who you ask, these spirits are sometimes called the Three Corpses and sometimes called the Three Worms.

My cousin—whose parents are both Taiwanese, and whose Taiwanese-ness is salient to her in a way only my Japanese-ness is for me—was the one who told me of these crouching corpses that take up residence in your heart, stomach, and head, and signify the past, present, and future.

The worms lie to you. They lull you with songs of the past and dreams of the future, and the more you listen, the more you veer away from true consciousness. While you are distracted, the worms feed on you. They agitate illness within your body. They meticulously keep track of your actions in order to report your sins to the gods. They welcome disease. They want you—the host—to die; for when you die, they will be free.

If my granuloma had appeared in a vacuum—that is, if my father hadn’t also been dying of cancer—I would remember my tumor and its two removals only as a painful and deeply unpleasant part of a painful and deeply unpleasant pregnancy. Instead, my benign tumor gained outsize significance. Or rather, I imbued it with significance. When my father and I joked about our respective tumors, I latched onto the word our, holding on to the plural for as long as I could.

We moved at a similar pace then—me with a belly full of baby, my father with a belly full of cancer. Both of us were slow, cautious. But we were moving in different directions.

Read more in Catapult.

This is an external article from our library

Everyone is talking about caregiving, but it can still be difficult to find meaningful information and real stories that go deep. We read (and listen to and watch and look at) the best content about caregiving and bring you a curated selection.

Have a great story about care work? Use our contact form to submit it to us so we can share it with the community!

Related Articles

And So on and So Forth

And So on and So Forth

The woman is my mother, who is 81 and losing her memory, the past dissolving each day like so many tablets dropped into water and turning to fizz....

Popular categories

Finances
Burnout
After Caregiving
Housing
Relationships
Finding Meaning
Planning
Dying
Finding Support
Work
Grief

Don't see what you're looking for? Search the library

Share your thoughts

0 Comments

Share your thoughts and experiences

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join our communities

Whenever you want to talk, there’s always someone up in one of our Facebook communities.

These private Facebook groups are a space for support and encouragement — or getting it off your chest.

Join our newsletter

Thoughts on care work from Cori, our director, that hit your inbox each Monday morning (more-or-less).

There are no grand solutions, but there are countless little ways to make our lives better.

Share your insights

Caregivers have wisdom and experience to share. Researchers, product developers, and members of the media are eager to understand the nature of care work and make a difference.

We have a group specifically to connect you so we can bring about change.