Fearless Hope

The eleventh anniversary of my mother’s death approaches.

I can hardly believe it.

We were fortunate; we were (my brothers and sisters) all able to huddle around her at her final hour.

At the point where it became clear she had only hours left a doctor came in to remind her (and us) that there were other treatments she could receive that might prolong her year-long battle with pancreatic cancer.

My mother, ever-so-sensible, looked at all of us and said:

“I’ve had a wonderful life. Now I’m having a wonderful death.”

She was ready to go.

These words – some of her last words – have stayed with me over the ensuing years and stand out to me as one of the finest gifts – if not the finest gift – she ever gave me us.

We could stop our huddling and stand by her. 

I can only pray that I have – and am able to give to my children – the same fearless hope my mother had when my end comes.

I often wonder where that hope sprang from.

I think it had its grounding in her strong faith (and devotion) to God.

My mother’s work was finished here on Earth and she was content to travel on.

Maybe it was a brave front she was putting on but I don’t think so.

You would have had to have been there.

And if you had been there you would have seen the lonely and cold corridors of the cancer ward my mother died in.

It’s odd how a hospital’s corridors seem impersonal and sterile until you pass through the door of your loved one’s. 

Suddenly you’re conveyed into the warmth and loving welcome of someone who’s glad to see you.

At least for a few minutes.

But my point is there are many people in hospitals right this very minute who are approaching death’s door and they’re alone.

They’re alone and some of them are unconscious and some of them are actually tied to their beds so they don’t fall out.

But some of them are conscious and frightened and lonely.

And it’s all very sad. 

A friend of mine tweeted at me this morning:

“number 1 disease in the world is loneliness

He then called me to elaborate.

“People will tell you they have cancer but they won’t tell you they’re lonely.”

Some of them can’t.

How can we change that?


About Maureen Sharib

513 646 7306 / 899 9628 Telephone Names Sourcer Public Speaker / Communications Trainer Social Irritant Thinker
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15 Responses to Fearless Hope

  1. Dan Molloy says:

    Thank You Maureen,
    As always you have a way with words and you know where it came from.
    “I’ve had a wonderful life. Now I’m having a wonderful death.”
    Your brother.
    Love you.

  2. Maureen, you linked to a wikipedia page about converts and as I was going over to it I realized that faith of this sort usually doesn’t make people fearless. There are plenty of religious people who are as frightened as can be. Fearlessness is usually something the person brings on her own. Proof? Your mother was an independent businesswoman. She didn’t found her business with his money and she didn’t depend on him a safety net.

    Also, I think you’ll like this. Oscar

    • I have a friend who used to go out with foreign guys who were very religious. She would tell me enthusiastically how much she admired their “faith”. Then one guy got a pimple in a certain place and freaked out. “Where’s his faith now?” I asked her. She, of course, did not freak out at all though he obviously presumed that she was the source of his minor skin irritation.

    • Animal,
      I loved the Oscar clip.
      It’s been my experience in life that converts make some of the strongest faith-based believers.
      When I first heard about the shootings in Arizona someone mentioned that the federal judge killed, John Roll, had been to Mass that (Saturday) morning.
      I thought to myself, “I’ll bet he’s a Catholic convert.”
      I don’t know why I thought that – I just did.
      So I just did some research .
      I was wrong.
      He was born into a Catholic family but he acted, in my opinion, much like a convert.
      Daily communicants are many times converts.
      It takes a real believer to go to Church everyday.
      A real believer.

      As a Catholic, I believe in the Communion of Saints.
      I know you think it’s nuts.
      This is something funny that just happened.
      As I was doing the Roll research I came across this:
      Feast Day: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 12, 2011
      Marguerite is an odd, not-often-heard name.
      My mother’s name was Marguerite.
      Today is January 12.
      I believe my mother watches over me and communicates with me in subtle ways like this, sinner even that I am.
      I know you think this is ridiculous but I don’t.
      Pray for me.

  3. Karla Porter says:

    That is beautifully written Maureen. Your mother’s words certainly romanticize the end and I can only hope that when I must resign my life to death it goes as well as she expressed it did for her.

  4. Todd Raphael says:

    Beautiful sentiments, great post.

  5. Steve Levy says:

    Before my Mom’s Mom – Nana – died back in the early 1980’s, as the only present family member, I had to sign the surgical form allowing for a pacemaker to be inserted. As you can imagine, this wasn’t an easy thing to do. I was petrified; Marion was smiling.

    “Don’t worry Steven. By the way Steven, this is my new friend [pointing to the pretty young ICU nurse]; I think the two of you should talk.” Ah, ever the matchmaker, even at dire times. My heart was beating through my chest as I signed my name and never spoke to the nurse (of course later – after the surgery – Nana scolded me for not doing so).

    She was never scared and in the decades following her husband’s death in 1961, never alone. She had her friends, she religiously went to her Senior Citizens Center, she painted, danced, cooked.

    Several weeks after the pacemaker, her health took a turn for the worse and she was admitted to the hospital. It was clear that a recovery wasn’t going to happen.

    I remember being by her side for three days before she died; she had stopped eating, stopped speaking. At about 9:00AM the day she died, I pleaded with her to fight, to eat, to drink. After not having spoken for three days, she opened her eyes, and in a very clear voice, “Steven, you’re bothering me; please – just let me go.”

    I kissed her and left.

    She died one hour later.

    “Let me go” was the fearless hope that I had yet to understand. She missed her husband terribly and thinking back on the decades since his death, she had made that crystal clear. I was being selfish trying to “force” her to fight when she had already made up her mind. She wasn’t afraid; she needed to be with the love of her life.

    As vibrant as Marion was, she was lonely without George. Who was I to keep her from him?

    Society spends a great deal of money on extraordinary measures to keep people alive, many of whom have lived in the shadow of loneliness for many years. I don’t believe this is the right thing to do.

    As the title of the Richard Dreyfuss movie asked, “Whose life is it anyway?”

  6. Steve, your grandmother was ready to go at the end but until then most people want almost any medical procedure that will keep them alive.

  7. Animal, why do you think that is?
    I’ve known a couple people who begged for death; mostly because of pain.

    • Maureen, the answer is inborn desire to live.

      My friend’s mother was paranoid. She ran a business but when she was away from it she imagined her neighbours wd do anything to disturb her so they could get her house for their kids. This probably started after the war which was very rough for her (in Europe).

      I got to know her just after my friend’s father died and all of the time I knew her she was very unhappy with her life. When she was 91 and living in a senior citizen’s residence the doctors and social worker had a meeting with her and my friend to see if she wanted heroic measures done to save her if she expired. “Yes,” she said, “Life is good.”

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