I was walking one morning while it was still dark outside. The full moon hung brightly on the horizon and the air was warm and smelled like fresh Earth. The word “Hope” popped into my mind. I don’t know where it came from, but it settled in to the cracks in my heart and I felt at peace. I suddenly recalled writing a paper about the healing power of hope when I was in college. I got chills remembering that topic, as I was having surgery that week and would find out whether I had cancer.
I had been doing a lot of soul searching as I prepared for a possible cancer diagnosis. I wasn’t afraid to die, if that was the outcome, but I was sad for the family I’d be leaving behind. I knew they would mourn my loss. I was also sad at the thought of not seeing my children grow up to begin their own adult lives. Of not getting to travel to Ireland or Peru. Of not spending retirement with my husband on the beaches of Maine and Southwest Florida. Of never getting around to my dream of being a writer.
Hope is a key ingredient in the recipe for healing. Without it, there is no meaning or purpose in life. Healing doesn’t necessarily mean being cured. The word heal actually means “to make whole”; to create inner peace by integrating all parts of oneself. This could mean recovery from a sudden illness or injury. It could also mean working through longstanding resentments and emotional traumas. Or, it could mean making peace with one’s life before leaving the Earthly realm.
Thankfully, I didn’t have cancer. In facing the possibility, however, I developed a new outlook on life along with a deep and tangible sense of gratitude. I had begun working through some of the resentments and traumas I’d been harboring as I contemplated having a terminal illness. I’ve continued this process as I recover from the surgery. And I’ve continued to maintain hope, even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and its repercussions. The experience is a reminder that there are no guarantees in life and that the present is the only time we ever have.