|Me & Mom. Photo by Jeff Norris|
Hope: the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.
The other day I told Mom I was going to a meeting for the annual Celebration of Hope fundraiser for the Cleveland Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Mom looked at me and asked, “Hope?” She sounded so shocked by what I said that I thought she had misheard me and was trying to confirm that I said “hope” and not a random bad word or something. I said “Yes, Celebration of Hope.”
She looked at me and replied, “There is no hope.”
This was the first time I had ever heard Mom say there was no hope. I was suddenly filled with the realization that Mom does not believe she will get what she wants or things will turn out for the best.
People who go through terrible illnesses or traumatic events often say that hope is the thing that sustained them. For many people hope is the reason they are alive. It is what saves them. One could argue that in terrible situations, we need hope, for without it we would perish. I guess in this situation you could say we could redefine hope, or see the other areas in life where Mom has hope.
There is hope in Mom’s time with family, in the fun of specific events that are coming up, and in watching her grandchildren grow. But if we are just talking about hope for her dementia being cured, which is the thing she most wants, she is right, there is no hope.
As a minister I want an answer for her. I can easily imagine a congregant in a similar situation coming to me, asking what to do when hope is lost. Initially I would feel compelled to list all of the other ways in which this person still has hope and a beautiful life ahead of them.
However, actually living in this situation and knowing there is no hope for a cure for Mom, I feel like to try and convince her to see hope in other areas, as though that makes up for the fact that there is no hope for a cure, is the wrong thing to do. There are things we can not change. There are some things for which there is no hope. To deny that reality would be to deny her experience and the grief that comes with it.
We all need to grieve the loss of hope for a cure for Mom because denial makes us attached to an outcome which will never happen. It will not allow us to deal with the reality of the situation.
I am not saying there are not many other wonderful things in Mom’s life that we celebrate, and she celebrates as well. Sometimes though we need to recognize the reality of the situation so we can truly deal with what is in front of us.