For those of us who are thriving in this world, hope includes anticipation of health and strength. Restoration and healing are expected. This hope has kept most of us alive at times when facing illness, waiting for the natural processes, the medication, the surgery or other treatment to provide a cure.
It’s life-giving when we can look forward to getting outside again, being with friends and doing the things we enjoy. Hope sustains us and those who hope with us for better days. When our strength begins to return, we light up with plans for a vacation or activity that we’ve not been able to do while recovering from an illness or accident.
But what happens to hope when the doctor shares test results indicating that healing and recovery is not expected? Holding onto unrealistic hope can be discouraging when there’s no positive change over time. But we know that miracles can happen. We’ve heard the stories of unexpected healing and are tempted to hold onto hope for a fullness of life to return.
The big choice we face is never between hope and no hope, but between different objects and sources of hope. When dying becomes an undeniable reality, hope can grow strong. The focus of our hope changes to that which is more permanent in life, eternal. When we can no longer hope in good faith for a new lease of life on this earth, we can grasp the promises given for a life beyond what we have sought here.
We can hold onto that which we have only heard about, but not yet experienced. This can be a hope that doesn’t disappoint because it doesn’t depend on evidence of well-being here in this world. If we can look toward a Person and Place greater than ourselves, beyond the experts, medical solutions, and the good wishes of our friends and family, we may find a source and object of hope that carries us through the dying process.
Waiting need not be filled with dread and fear or hopelessness and helplessness when our hopes are set higher than ever before. Instead, when that happens hope can become infectious among those who wait with us. Our goals and dreams will change and become the assurance that allows us to rest with confidence. It also allows those who wait with us to rest, and to strengthen their own hope.
What do you hope for today that is new, or that you hope for in a new way? How can you share that hope with those you love and see that hope fulfilled together? Let us know in a comment.
Ron has been involved in ministry to people for more than 30 years. As a chaplain with Holy Redeemer Hospice, he hears the life stories of patients daily and faces end-of-life challenges with each one. Along with being a member of the ethics committee, regularly presiding at memorial services and teaching hospice professionals, his primary joy comes in seeing the lessons of life revealed in so many lives rich with memories and questions.
Part of the perspective he brings to the hospice experience is placing this life event in the context of an entire life and generation of family history. As a chaplain, Ron works from a strong belief that the spiritual dynamics create a sacred space for hope and personal growth until the last breath and beyond, for both patients and caregivers. Honoring each individual path toward the end of life, he believes the work caregivers do and the reward they receive is more than physical. As a hospice chaplain, he considers himself a companion on that path.
On his own life’s path, Ron has been the clinical director of a residential addiction center, a community restorative justice organization, and pastoral staff. In addition to his work with hospice patients, Ron is a licensed marriage and family therapist working with families at all stages of the life cycle. This particular practice is enhanced by his own experience of nearly four decades of marriage, two daughters, and four grandchildren.