Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops… at all.” – Emily Dickinson
I was reading the posts in the archives of Joshua Becker’s blog “Becoming Minimalist.com” not too long ago. One post was called “Find Hope, Give Hope”. Now I never thought about hope in relation to my dad and tears streamed down my face as I thought about his loss of hope. I’ve read the newspaper articles about the March of Dimes, polio and my dad… where there was still hope that he would get better and I wonder when the hope died. These thoughts shatter me, even now after over fifty years. We never talked about when he knew that he would remain paralyzed and would always be dependent on others. When did he give up hope that he would ever be able to move his arms and legs, hug his children and wife…or hope that he could support his family again? These thoughts are so devastating to me that I had to think about hope for days. I’m not so much a philosophical or religious person as a pragmatist and realist… oh and an optimist.
I had to go back and reread the “Find Hope, Give Hope” post to think about what Dad had to hang on to when that hope died… Josh says “Hope provides us with motivation to persevere. It calls us to dream dreams of significance and influence. It begs us to work diligently with optimism and promise.” I do believe that hope is replenished over and over again. As you climb one summit, reach one goal, face a new obstacle or lose hope, new hopes follow. My dad was a man of great fortitude and an optimist. Without ever having discussed hope with him, I am guessing that he replaced the hope of getting better for the hope that he could ease my mom’s burden and hope that he could continue to raise his children so that we would grow up to be happy and successful adults. I believe that he was determined to live his life with joy and laughter.
When my son was three, he was run over and dragged down the street by a neighbor’s car in front of our house. He did not have a mark on his angelic face, but had subdural hematoma, a broken clavicle, fractured hip, and shattered thigh. He had burr holes in his skull to relieve the swelling, he coded, was in a coma for over six weeks, and came home in a full body spica cast. And through it all, we survived on hope and prayers. There was hope that he would survive, hope that he would wake from his coma, and hope that he would be a normal preschooler again. And he did survive, wake and thrive although unbeknownst to us, disabled by his brain trauma. We continue to hope. Hope isn’t something we consciously think about. It’s an intuitive feeling that we had and have. Hope is a leap of faith.
In the last days of his life, Dad had a breathing tube down his throat so he couldn’t speak. I begged the doctors to put him in an iron lung or, at least, give him a tracheotomy to no avail. I wrote the alphabet on a small chalkboard and he would blink as I pointed at the letters. The day that my dad spelled out “I want to die” is the day he gave up hope. And that was the day he died.
While there’s life, there’s hope. Cicero