The Crucially Important Survival Tool: Hope
by Wendy Keller, author & inspirational speaker
In a film I saw yesterday, one woman was crying to another that “they” had taken everything away from her. It was a poignant moment, because “they” had. The older woman strokes the crying woman’s back and says, “No, Tillie. You still got one thing left. They can’t take that.”
Tillie mumbles, “What is it?”
The older woman looks forlornly off into the distance and says, “Hope. They can’t take away your hope.”
At the lowest points of my life, when every single thing was black and dark, cold and scary, I’ve often pondered “hope”. I remember when hope saved my life.
I clearly remember the feelings I had right after both my children died in that car accident, when my leg was so badly crushed they didn’t think I’d ever walk again, and I was in so much physical, emotional and spiritual pain that I made several attempts at suicide. All attempts were thwarted by the nurses at Cheltenham General (see photo). I was mostly paralyzed and lacked viable options.
More than anything, I yearned to die. There was nothing left to live for. My babies were on ice in the morgue below my hospital bed. I planned on never laughing again, never smiling, never having a day without crying. I had become a Bereaved Mother. I will always be a bereaved mother, from that day to this. It’s What Is.
My friend Lora Lewis called my draughty hospital room. Her precious son Sydney had died of SIDS back home in the USA just a few months earlier. I loved her dearly and his loss was the most devastating thing I’d ever experienced – until now that my own children were dead, too.
I said, “Lora, will I ever stop crying?”
She said, “Do you have a clock there? Watch the second hand. See if you can go thirty seconds without crying. When you achieve that, do some more.”
Seeing as every bone on my left side was crushed from my knee to my neck, I didn’t have a whole lot to do except look at the big, ugly industrial clock on the pale green wall of my hospital room.
After a few days, I went thirty seconds without crying!
After a few months, I had worked up to sometimes a whole hour!
After a few years, I could sometimes go a whole day!
Whether crying is good or bad is not the point. The point is that Lora’s simple challenge gave me something precious: hope. It set in my mind the expectation that somehow, one day, I might not spend the whole day in mourning, the whole day enveloped in bleakest anguish.
Hope is a miracle drug. When we allow in even the tiniest microscopic speck of hope that things can get better, it generates in even the most wounded heart the energy to begin the long, slow, bumpy journey back.
My son Jeremy and my daughter Amelia have been dead since the spring of 1991. I miss them and think of them every single day. I cry over their loss dozens of times a year.
But in between grief, there is light and life.
PS – This is really strange, but when I looked up the photo of the hospital, it was the first time in my life I’d ever seen it! They brought me in and took me out on a stretcher. I had a vague recollection of some pillars – and that was it! I DO remember that the lovingkindness of the staff was amazing. They were so sensitive and compassionate.
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