This I Believe

JOAN ZANDELL - Sagaponack, New York
Entered on May 18, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65


I believe in having hope. I believe that by staying rooted in the present moment, no matter how bleak things may seem at times,

life can and will change in an instant, and one must always have hope.

Many years ago when my husband and I decided to divorce, my heart was filled with pain, loss and rage. Moments after he left, I received a phone call from my Russian Great Aunt Peggy, who just recently turned 100. She heard the pain in my voice. I told her my heart was irreparably broken, and that I did not want to live. Her response was the following story: Two close friends were living in Russia; he was a cellist and his wife was a singer. They challenged the status quo by supporting the writings of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Their concerts were cancelled. They had no choice but to apply for asylum in London. As Jews and artists seeking asylum, they were not permitted to work. They made a pact. If they were arrested, or it seemed that they would starve to death, they would take cyanide capsules.

One evening, the wife claimed that she could not take another day, and they agreed to take the capsules. But at the very last moment, the thought of her own death filled her with greater fear and apprehension than their day to day reality. So, the dual suicide was postponed. The next morning the call came from London. They had been granted exit-visas and asylum. The cellist happened to have been Mstislav Rostropovich.

Aunt Peggy suggested that we all have terrible moments like the ones shared by the cellist and his wife. But life is a gift, and giving up hope should never be an option. We have no way to know what may be around the next corner. Our bad times as well as good, are transitory. If we have a responsibility in this lifetime, she said, it is to live and embrace all of life’s moments to their fullest, to realize life’s beauty without judgment. Being fully in the moment, living life with an open heart, watering the seeds of love and kindness, and loving the self and others, is truly all there is.