At Christmastime, one tradition is to hope. In this medical column, can I prescribe some pill, balm, salve or nostrum that will give us hope? This year I would like to prescribe a poem I have shared before at Christmas that has a tone of hope that is very appropriate for all us in this time of angst and often deep despair with the pandemic we are experiencing. Whether you have been affected marginally or intimately, we realize we are all in this together.
The following poem that I am “re-gifting” has helped me understand that there can be hope amidst desperation. We should recall the grim extremes that people in homeless camps or hospital ICU’s, those devastated by floods, fires, earthquakes, storms, refugees in countries with needless war like Yemen, Syria, and Ethiopia and recognize the despair that humanity can face. How can these people have hope? The answer seems to lie in the intangible, ephemeral mystery we call the human spirit. We can’t define it, anymore than we can define love, but we know it is real.
We see hope in the people trying to stay warm sleeping outside in the cold, in people who are fighting to stay alive as a cancer overwhelms their physical being, in victims of the disease, depression, and in refugees escaping the violence of gangs and warlords in so many countries. Even in the cages of the concentration camps on our southwestern border.
How can they find hope and a will to live not knowing how they will eat or stay alive? That incredibly powerful and durable human spirit within emerges and imbues people with this thing called hope. Cultural and religious winter celebrations and even the New Year symbolize hope. We all take pieces of each we have learned to know, and incorporate them into our personal interpretation of hope.
Getting slightly personal, I remember my mother suffered from depression most of my younger life until it claimed her. Between episodes she could be a happy, sunny, inspirational person that every kid in the neighborhood loved and minded. After college I played clarinet in the USMA Band at West Point for my army duty. My mom and dad would write letters every week to encourage and support me. Mom sent many short poems. The one that I have kept nearest to me radiates what hope can and should be, at least to me.
As we struggle to endure this current physical and emotional strife in our own diverse, personal paths, maybe the following re-gifted poem will help you find the beginning of hope.
Noise of the world
Is dinning and dinning.
Webs of our lives
Keep spinning and spinning.
Somewhere in the snarl
There’s a sparkle, a glimmer.
Now, glint and glow,
Do not grow dimmer
Before I can clasp
And hold you to see
How light covers dark
For the world and for me.
— Irene Bures
This is my prescription for hope for you, just as we should remember the gift of the meaning of Jesus’ birth at this time for all us, regardless of religion, the gift of hope.
To end on a lighter note, here is one of the many pungent pandemic posies people have published. It says that this, too, shall pass. It may pass like a kidney stone passes, but it will pass. Thanks for reading. Merry Christmas.