In October 2016, Mom was in the hospital with complications from her cancer. We had been at Duke and Carolinas Medical Center during the past three weeks, only having one day at home between. Mom was exhausted from the normal lack of sleep in the hospital, but her cancer also caused her to be severely anemic and so she was tired from that as well. In true Vickie Hood fashion, though, she spent her time encouraging the staff and other patients and so, endeared herself to them.
After many tests over many days, the doctors came into the room one Friday afternoon with grim faces. The chief physician sat down at her bedside, took her hand and told her that the tests had shown that her kidneys had failed completely and that she was not a candidate for dialysis. They estimated that she would live about two weeks.
My Mom looked over at the younger doctor standing in the corner who had tears starting to stream down her young face. Then she turned back to the older doctor and asked, “So I’m going to die?”
He bowed his head and said, “Yes Ma’am.”
The quiet was thick in the room, with only the sound of the light buzzing over the sink.
Then, shaking her head and shrugging her shoulders, she said, “I am so sorry that my children are going to have to clean out my attic.”
There was a moment of startled silence from the doctor and then a smile and a chuckle.
Mom asked if he was okay.
He said, “Yes ma’am, but you shouldn’t worry about me. I wish everyone could look at death with your bravery.”
Her response was that she had the hope of Heaven.
That night, knowing she was dying and had little time left, Mom and I had an old fashioned gospel sing in the hospital room. We each called out whatever song came to mind and we sang as loudly as we wanted. “How Great Thou Art!” “Amazing Grace!” “I’ll Fly Away!” “Victory in Jesus!” “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder I’ll Be There!” I’m sure some of the neighbors didn’t appreciate it, but nobody told us to be quiet and there were a few nurses who came by to encourage us. This was Mom’s way of fueling the hope she had within her. Her hope filled the room that night and spilled out into the hallway.
I have no doubt that Mom felt sad and afraid. She was a brave woman, but she was human. We all have fear and we all feel sorrow at loss. She was losing her life, she wouldn’t see all of her grandkids grow up. She was strong in her faith, but there is always an unknown in death. She did whatever she could to hold onto hope that night in the hospital, though, and in the process, she gave hope to others, including me.
One of the many things that my sweet mama’s life and death has taught me is that there is always hope. If we can’t find it on our own, we can reach out and grasp onto the hope of others. It is contagious. It is also a choice. We can choose let that positive energy settle deep within our souls, fuel it however we can, and allow it to free us to go on with the journey that has been set before us.
Whatever your beliefs about Jesus, it is undeniable that His life and death brought more hope into this world than had been known before. This season of celebration of His birth gives us an opportunity to follow His example of giving hope to others, being a light in their darkness.
There are so many who grieve during this time of year. I am among them, but I also have a legacy of hope, a path forged by those who came before me, and so the grieving is not in hopelessness.
If you can’t seem to find your hope today, feel free to hold onto mine for now. I choose today to have hope. I choose to add to the light in this world. I choose to smile through the tears. I choose to believe there is a God. I choose to believe that God loves me and I choose to step forward in faith toward my destiny, whatever it may be.
May you be filled with the light of HOPE during this holiday season!
Much love to all!
P .S. Below is a link to my favorite Christmas song. It has always brought tears to my eyes, even before losing so many of those I love. Mama O’Tuel (see previous post) used to say it was so sweet she could eat it with a spoon! I hope you enjoy it!