Saturday, October 5, 2013

A New Perspective on Hope

I didn’t think much about the concept of Hope during the ten weeks my dad was sick; rather, my family and I clung to it like a lifeline, as if it was the medicine that we needed to make it through each day and each night.  After he died, whenever I thought about Hope and the way we had had so much of it during those tumultuous weeks, I felt like a kid who’d been lured into a kidnapper’s vehicle through promises of puppies and candy.  I felt so incredibly disheartened and disappointed in myself for having had such complete belief that my dad (and thus my family) was going to beat the odds. Afterwards, after the rug had been pulled out from under us, I felt like I should have at least suspected that it might have been about to happen.

Here I am three years from the month in which my dad was diagnosed, still shocked and confused that the whole thing happened.  One thing that has changed for me lately though is my view on Hope:

A child I know was recently diagnosed with cancer.  His mom, a good friend of mine, and I have been talking about the injustice of it all, her fresh shock and fury easily unearthing some of mine.  I have felt especially at a loss as to what to say to her since her son’s diagnosis, mainly because I know how empty certain standard platitudes can sound to someone who is on the inside of the tragedy and who is struggling to survive in the midst of such unbelievable turmoil.  “Hang in there”??  What else would she do?  “Be strong"??  As in, don’t cry – or don’t run away?  “Let me know what you need”??  Maybe she can work on making a list and then call all of us to delegate in her “spare” time.  And then there’s the thing that I thought to be the worst form of banality when my dad was sick: “I know just what you’re going through.”  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: that statement will never be true for any two people, even if those individuals are in the same family, are taking care of someone with the same type of cancer, or have some other type of parallel.  It’s always different.  

I did come across a quote that I thought might be something to consider as other words continued to fail me, though:

I came across a story about a child with cancer that was posted on a blog a few weeks ago with respect to Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September, and some of the words from that story stuck with me: every family battling cancer needs hope.  I like the way the author used the term "family" in that statement as the battle is fought by entire families, and the truth of her words really hit home for me.  People need Hope, especially in the midst of the most difficult things they must endure, like the catastrophic illness of a loved one. That Hope can be for varying things depending on the circumstances - Hope for a cure, for comfort over pain, for more time together, for a solid treatment plan, for a trustworthy medical team, whatever is chosen by each person and by each family.  Sometimes that Hope is nothing more than the knot in the end of the rope that we've tied in desperation and to which we cling so fiercely.  Hope has such value, though, as it is what keeps us from giving in or giving up; it's not that we're heroic or tough or even smart and that's why we keep going in the midst of tragedy - it's that we have to believe so that we are able to persevere, to make it to the next corner, where there just may be something that will change the course of things.  It's stubbornness, it's strategy for survival, and it's love; it's what we do because it's sometimes all that we can do.

In that light, Hope seems brilliant instead of foolish to me, and, for that change in perspective, I am grateful.