HOLDING LIGHTLY

I had the opportunity to engage with a spiritual worker from our hospital the other day. I had worked with him before in crisis situations such as intensive care, rushed meetings with grieving family members, and other end-of-life emergencies. Because let’s face it, patients doing great in the hospital don’t tend to invite a stranger – possibly from another religion – to come and comfort them at their bedside. But now it was “just us” with no patients in sight – his smiling face appeared at our online weekly interpreter meeting. He had come to encourage us to share our stories, and guide us into some new thoughts about hope and resilience during COVID.

Being an interpreter, I was delayed and missed half the meeting, and most of my colleagues couldn’t make it at all. Welcome to our world. But I still learned something very valuable that has stayed with me. This spiritual worker talked about hope in a way I had never considered, and he started by saying that although most of us think of hope as a “positive” feeling, in fact it has an edge of sorrow and loss. Because after all, we only hope for things that we do not have. Or to keep things that we fear to lose. So there is also sorrow. And when we hope for “things to get better” we are hoping from a place of not accepting this present moment. That really struck me.

He also said something that offered such a powerful image. He said that he regularly (and I am sure gently) cautions his patients and family members to “hold hope in a light hand.” To hold onto hope lightly, and not white-knuckled. Do not let yourself go into that dark night of “this HAS to happen! I cannot HANDLE it if this doesn’t happen!” Or the converse: “This CANNOT happen! I cannot HANDLE it if this happens!” Where hope becomes a plea, a demand, a fist raised to the face of God, the face of the universe. And we become so puny and helpless and outraged and alone.

As interpreters, we see it all. Surgeries fail. People die. Quite regularly. One might even say, on schedule. Not on our schedule, of course. And yet there is hope, which I am just now trying to digest in its fullness. Hope doesn’t mean “things are bound to get better” any more. Because things are not bound to my most fervent, white-knuckled demands, hopes, and desires. Things are as they are. Whether I like it or not. And so I am left with a hope (ironically enough) to become humble. And a hope to become accepting. And a hope to learn to hold hope in a light hand.