July 2, 2009

I'm Deaf and Dying

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
- Emily Dickenson

Hope and encouragement are two of the most powerful words in our language. I am meditating on these words as I am aware of friends and family working through extreme difficulties. Sometimes all one has to hang on is the life raft of hope.

Arm-chair philosophers like to ponder the “why” of something happening. Numerous books have been written on the subject.

Before Husband and I married, his father was killed suddenly in a tragic car accident. We were separated by 1000 miles and I could not return to the Midwest. I wanted to send him something meaningful so I chose the book On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. This book is legendary and has helped many people work through life’s beginnings and endings as well as come to terms with the transition through stages of grief.

Shortly after his father’s death, I spoke to Husband on the phone to tell him I was mailing a book. He acted odd, and I chalked it up to the stress and strain of the sudden death. Later I learned he thought I said, I’m Deaf and Dying. That book probably would not have been very helpful.

Regardless, I have no answers on why bad things happen to good people. To paraphrase our president, that philosophical land mine is “beyond my pay grade.”

Many people believe that “things” happen for a reason. I once heard a rabbi pray at the Indy 500 race. After he prayed for the drivers in that race, their crew, and soldiers serving in the military, the rabbi added, “And God bless the Indiana Pacers in the NBA playoffs this week.”

Does God cheer for the Pacers or the Knicks or the Lakers, or does He gives teams the ability to be excellent if players chose to use and develop these gifts?

While I have no scientific proof, I believe that little bird of hope that Emily Dickinson talked about in her poem rests in all of us. From hope can grow encouragement. For others who have no hope, we can give them our encouragement and hope may blossom.

Cynics may say this is bunk. Perhaps it is. But I cannot live in a world with no hope. I’ve been a Cubs fan all my life, for gawd’s sake. I choose to live with hope and encouragement – the alternative is a void.

The Psalmist addresses hope in Psalm 130, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His words I put my hope.”

Perhaps it’s easy for me to have a “glass full” attitude. My life has yet to be scarred with tragedies I’ve witnessed among family and friends. But I know when I have been troubled or burdened with life’s load, I have found the encouragement of others to be like manna from heaven, when the card comes in snail mail, or the phone call to say hello, or the bouquet of flowers. Encouragement easily blooms into a bouquet of hope. I will pay it forward. Quoth the raven.