What Is Hope?

Hope is the tiny, intangible thing that sits just on the outside of our sensibilities.

Hope snuggles its way into our lives, flashing its tantalizing features, like a glittery snow- filled tree reflecting the moonbeams. It is always there, but its shapeshifter nature allows it the leniency to constantly morph into the next phase. When the snow melts, hope finds a new refuge in a babbling brook, a sunset filled with reds and pinks so brilliant it almost hurts, or hides in a rabbit hole so deep that one’s naked eye cannot detect just what is down in the warm darkness. We cannot touch it. We cannot change it. We are not even exactly sure what it is. Sometimes we deny it, sensing the pending disappointment when hope does not turn out on our sides. Yet, hope remains.

When we were told our first daughter, Sophia, would not survive long past birth–if she would even breathe at all–we called on hope to make the doctors be wrong. When she was born at 20 weeks gestation, and only survived an hour-and-a-half, our deflated sense of hope carried us out of the hospital and into the unusually warm winter day. The fog-filled trek to our empty home enshrouded our car, our bodies, and our soul. Without our permission, hope hitched a ride. The very hope to which we had clung so hard our knuckles had began turning white had slipped right through our clenched fingers like a handful of ice melting into water. Now a puddle on the floor, it surrounded our feet and drenched our shoes. It was uncomfortable and gross. It soaked our skin and chilled our bones. It was no longer what we thought it was, but it had not disappeared either.

Time and again, our search for the elusive hope swelled as we received positive pregnancy tests, and without fail, our mindful damning of the very thing on which we relied sparked again. Like how a beautiful flower that had spread its pedals wide in a colorful array eventually dries and shrivels, our sense of what hope would do for us was withering.

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Sophia’s bush. Property of Laura Gaddis, 2014.

When our pregnancy with Evelyn started out normal–or as normal as we had ever experienced–our confidence and trust in hope resurfaced. Never wanting to fully let go of the indefinable being, our sense of security peaked as we finally travelled a path with the one force that we wanted so badly to control but could not. Even a true comprehension of what it was, or how it worked, was beyond our limited senses. It rarely agreed with us and our pleadings in life, yet it remained the only thing we demanded acquiesce to our whims.

As the pregnancy took its violent turns, we were left shaken and torn, and carried our splintered hearts openly, as there is no other way to tote a misery so profound. Desperately trying to repair the damage the doctors had done to our souls, we once again turned to hope. It had, after all, stayed by our side this time. This fourth pregnancy was the one it chose to reveal its true purpose–or that was the thought we allowed ourselves to believe. As humans have a deep-seeded need to have answers for all things past, present, and future, we convinced ourselves we had finally wrangled hope into our corner. At last, we had the ally for which we had begged.

The night Evelyn was born, I lost grip of the hope to which I had become accustomed. She was two months early, and we had yet to understand the extent to which her abnormalities would impact her tiny life. Once again, hope glided through our grasp, taking refuge in a hidden corner of the delivery room. Dread settled into the gap left by my old friend, the one that was fair-weathered and flighty. When our baby took her first breath of air and cried a beautiful squeal of confusion, hope wrapped her in its warmth and cloaked her in its glory. Stunned by its re-emergence, we took it back into our lives, once again forgiving its seeming betrayal and welcoming the promise it now offered.

As we fight against Evelyn’s continuing gross motor delays, the days are hard and long. The exercises we carry out with her are arduous, mind-numbing, and tiresome. Evelyn’s mood fluctuates, at times building such a strong resistance to the help we try to offer that my heart fills with a black doom. My anxiety boils, my “what-if’s” kick into high gear. With desperation I try relying on my inadequate human mind to figure out all of the unknowns: what if she never walks? what if she gets too big for me to carry? what if she can never do other things independently like dress herself?

Anxiety serves as a poor substitute for hope. It is at these very moments when I need hope the most, yet it becomes the most obscure. When giving up comes to mind, and quitting a job that cannot be quit surfaces in the forefront of my thoughts, it is then I plead for hope to let me know it is still there.

I see what is happening before me now, but what will happen tomorrow? Or the next day? Or next month? As these questions replace my doom-filled quandaries, I begin to see the glimmer of hope again. It has changed, as it always does. When Evelyn took her first independent step, hope glimmered its facetiousness my way. When she stood for twenty seconds just to be able to use both her hands on an activity, hope smiled its sly grin.

We still await the day Evelyn can walk into her classroom or run with her friends on the playground. And while we know as parents we give all we have to help her progress, we also understand there will always be present the tiny piece that we cannot give her. Today it may be a tiny mouse watching through the window from our porch, or a star so dim in the night sky we can only see it by turning our heads just so to the side. Hope alone cannot fix our troubles, but without it, we cannot carry on.

So as it sits awaiting our next success, we continue to rely on it for the strength we cannot always find within ourselves. Hope watches as we cry our big sobs at the tough moments, and it helps us stand as we wipe away our tears, straighten our hair, and try again.

 

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