This I Believe

Patricia - Bethesda, Maryland
Entered on February 6, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: hope

For This I Believe: I believe in hope.

I believe in hope, and see it as a gift to those whose circumstances would otherwise invite despair.

Several times in my life, I have been witness to a person’s gradual decline toward death. Of the two more memorable times when hope played a role, it provided a respite and halted the march. In neither one did it affect a cure, but hope helped to ease a path towards what everyone knew was inevitable.

In the first instance, my husband’s best friend was dying of cancer. He had fought it for so long, and it was getting the best of him. Yet with each blood transfusion, he “rallied”, for a short period of time. I did not understand why the treatment was given – it wasn’t going to make him well; it was simply palliative – why not let him go?

The answer was that he wasn’t ready to go, or to “let go”. He had a reason to live for just a few more days – he wanted to see one daughter graduate from high school and another one marry – and he needed hope to make it happen.

Each transfusion gave him the strength to hope that he would. During those fleeting moments when he was feeling better, my husband and he planned how he would get to these special events; for instance, an ambulance would take him from the hospital for the wedding and return to the hospital afterwards. He made it to both events. He looked like a caricature of his former self, but he was there and engaged. Later that week he died.

It was a valuable life lesson for me, one I needed to learn: to give voice to his wishes and to respect his dignity, not through a miracle cure, just through the gift of hope. So I was prepared, and when my mother was dying, I became the purveyor of hope, not false or unrealistic, but just the hope of reprieve, if only for a moment.

My mother’s maiden name was “Lindsay”, which has a tartan whose distinctive red and green plaid has become ubiquitous, and popularized. One day I spotted a pair of Lindsay plaid slacks in the window of a store near work. Even though by this time Mother was bedridden and not wearing clothes other than her nightgown, on a whim, I bought a pair for her and a pair for me.

She was delighted, her eyes sparkling with a newfound life. They made her so happy because they were a reminder of more “normal” days. For a moment, in her mind’s eye, she resumed the role of an active adult instead of being defined by her illness. I think each of us understood that the slacks were a “symbol” of health and well being that was no longer attainable, but they allowed us to plan and pretend for better days ahead.

As a result of these two times, I believe that hope has a transformative power way beyond the momentary pleasure it bestows. I see it as a magic carpet that transcends one’s life for even a moment, making otherwise unbearable circumstances benign.