Follow Graceful Endings
HopeJune 17, 2015
On a recent cloudy Sunday, driving a friend to church, we suddenly saw a huge perfect rainbow, one end in the lagoon, the other arching to the other side of the island. The rainbow that appeared to Noah after the great flood was a symbol of hope. (Genesis 9) The tug at my heart seeing its luminous colors reminded me of hope – the beauty that can come when darkness and light are wedded by rain, just as releasing our healing tears can bring hope for a better tomorrow.
Many of us have experienced times of depression, a feeling of helpless emptiness, and perhaps worst of all, a loss of hope that anything will ever be right again. Sometimes depression comes after the death of a loved one, loss of a job, an illness, the relentlessness of aging. I have worked with people who are experiencing this loss of hope, and I myself have known it as well. How does one recover from such devastation of the soul?
The companion virtues to Hope are Faith and Trust. There is a lovely poem "This is Faith", written by a beloved Baha'i leader, Ruhiyyih Khanum Rabbani. The opening lines are:
To walk where there is no path
To breathe where there is no air
To see where there is no light -- This is Faith.
Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, "Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness."
I remember asking my younger brother John, how he could be so serene after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. He said, "People ask me do I have any hope? Am I afraid? For me it's not about fear. It's not about hope. It's about trust." Days before he died, his break-through pain seemed unbearable. I grew frantic, unable to help him, the medications from the Emergency Room doing nothing to relieve his pain. I ended up in the ER myself, with what I thought was a heart attack. Turned out it was a panic attack, complete with chest pains, nausea and a fast beating heart. The doctor gave me an Atavan, which he jokingly called "Vitamin A", as I wept and wept, finally unable to contain my tears. When I got home to John, I told him what the doctor had said. "Linda," he said, "You don't need Vitamin A. You need Vitamin T." "What's that, John?" "Trust!" he said. I was a bit miffed. "Hmph. It's a little hard for me to trust when you're in so much pain." "What makes it hard for you to trust?" "I guess it feels as though God is abandoning you." "But that's not true. Even in the pain, I can feel the hand of God." His utter faith and trust calmed me and allowed me to trust that he -- we -- would get through this last trial of the cancer. He later thanked me for my peacefulness which this incident restored. I went to see a grief counselor that week, and he said something which also helped. "Your brother has the pain but you have the suffering." Truth can be sobering. So, by calling on Vitamin T – trust-- I was able to climb back to hope -- hope that John would have a graceful ending after all. And a few days later, he did.
The balancing virtue for Hope is Determination – the will to act, to create change. Without determination, hope can be a vague longing. When we make a plan and then act on it, it gives us natural hope that things will be better. A Mormon priest once told me, "Heavenly father will never steer a parked car." So even Divine assistance is magnetized by action.
The rainbow reminds us to rely on God's grace by embracing all that life brings and to meet it with trust, faith, hope and determination. Hope is a light that can guide us through the dark times of life.