Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday, I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another. To follow, please leave your email address.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hope Does Not Have Feathers


Hope is the thing with … barbed wire.

It most definitely does not have FEATHERS, all fluttery and light, although it might if a circus clown like Emmett Kelly was trying to sweep up a spotlight with one, making us feel sad at his seemingly impossible task. That would capture how I feel. But hope is a great stone mountain. It doesn’t move. It’s the bright North Star in the night sky that I know will always be there, even if I can’t see it because of the clouds. It’s the memory of Evelyn rolling over in the middle of the night to cuddle in our sleep, even though she now is gone. It’s what kept me going.

Hope is barbed wire because just when I think I’m done with life, that everything is over and nothing is left, and I’m about to excuse myself and take my leave, hope snags a piece of me, makes me think that, well, maybe something will work out, and pulls me back. Maybe something will happen that I don’t anticipate, something that I don’t even realize is possible. It’s not like I know everything that goes on, and I’ve been surprised and gobsmacked in the past. And this sticks in my flesh and won’t let go.
It was Emily Dickinson who said the famous line I remembered ‑ “Hope is the thing with feathers.” I focused on the feathers because taken out of context, you don’t know what the thing is, so you’re left with “hope” and “feathers.” Then I read the entire poem and discovered the context. Dickinson isn’t speaking about the feathers at all, but about the THING that has feathers, and the thing is the bird that continues to sing even in the onslaught of a storm, when its song can barely be heard through the noise of the wind and rain.

When we carry hope in our heart’s cage, we have something that lasts. It’s what we feel when we hear the voices of children singing, when we see the eyes of physicians and nurses as they care for the sick, and what we feel in the touch of a friend’s hand on our shoulder after a hard day of being battered about by sorrow.
Having hope in a time of struggle does not change anything for the better. But hope is what gets us through these rough times when faith has been shredded by the mental tumult, and our friends have deserted us because they don’t know what to say and they have their own lives to take care of. Hope reminds us to hang on because … just maybe ….

Hope is not tied to what goes on in this world. It is neither reduced nor expanded by the world’s problems or celebrations. Hope does not change. It is never used up. It endures. Hope is a feeling, a conviction. It is more than a wish when I say, “I hope you have a good day.” What I hope is that you will find hope if the struggles of the day batter you about. In the end, Emmett Kelly does sweep up the spotlight. With the help of others.

Hope is the bird that sings in the storm.
Hope is the clown’s indestructible nose.
Hope is whatever helps you to not give up.

Hope is.  

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