When my mother was dying, she insisted for a long time that she could beat death.

She had survived the murder of her family by the Nazis, years in concentration camps, living from hand to mouth in America, an alcoholic husband suffering from PTSD, two cancers, arthritis that crippled her body, a bad heart that would sometimes simply stop, and a lot more.

She had hope. She was up front about it. If you asked her what kept her alive, she’d tell you.

I didn’t know where it came from but she had it. She didn’t believe in God, didn’t believe in others, didn’t believe in any philosophy. They were all worthless, one of her favorite words.

There was nothing that kept her tied to life except her sense that there was some good thing that could happen and turn it all around. This kept her going for five years when she was dying and alone.

And then it left her.

One day I called her and she said, ‘Johnny, I don’t have hope anymore’.

It was gone, gone because she knew that there were no more miracles that could keep her alive.

But then five brutal years later, it came back, at the very end of her life.

At 83 she had a stroke that left her paralyzed over 85 per cent of her body. She couldn’t move her hands or feet, couldn’t eat, couldn’t move her lips to speak.

The doctor said there was no hope for recovery. She would just get worse.

In the hospital, I asked her if she wanted me to take her off life support.

She struggled to speak, and when the word finally came out, it was ‘No’.


And what did I do?

I went home and wrote a poem:


Hope is kind.

Hope is a door and a window.
Hope is the silly neighbour-child we ignore when we are children ourselves.

Hope is the lesson learned too late.

Hope is Friday and Sunday morning.

Hope is a train going so fast that not even time can catch it.

Hope is the brother of sorrow, the sister of grief.

Hope is soft cows in a distant pasture of grass.

Hope is our mother.




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