Practicing Hope

Will's reflections on the practice of hope, written for the 2017 Candlelighting to Remember Children Who Have Died event that Will & Joanne organized in Asheville, NC.

Hope is not something that we possess. I do not believe that we can ever have hope. Rather, I have come to understand hope as a practice, as something that must be exercised daily. Similar to the practices of wellbeing and healthfulness, the practice of hope requires a relentless energy, and this requisite effort frequently strikes me as humorous since energy is precisely what I so often lack, especially as a grieving parent, especially during the holidays, especially when the sun sets earlier and earlier.

When I have the clarity of mind to perceive it, the spark of life reveals itself precisely there at the onset of evening and on the cusp of dawn when light and dark intermingle momentarily. There, on the thin horizon between day and night, light and dark, I glimpse the spark that fuels my cells and mobilizes my sore soul to once more take up the practice of hope and begin again along this long road of living grieving.

One of the luminaries lighting the path to our ceremony in Asheville, NC.

One of the luminaries lighting the path to our ceremony in Asheville, NC.

The limen (or threshold) between light and dark holds an open secret that we all know too well, the secret that tells of the fleeting nature of love. And this secret would be all sadness and tears were it not also the revelation of a sacred mystery. This mystery whispers into the ears of all who would pause to hear its words the wondrous declaration that the truth of love unfolds for those alone who praise both light and dark alike. This is not the trite platitude that we don’t know what we have until its gone or that happiness is only accessible after enduring some great sadness. The mystery that speaks to me says instead that the truth of love resides within the “and.” I want Finlay here with me in the flesh and this will never come to pass. I love my son and this love will bear the highlights cast by anguish’s bright flames. I feel blinded by his absence and in this darkness of vision there appears a pure vision of totality that somehow includes Finlay as both here and not, flesh and not, all and not. There, where light meet dark, the horizon of this “and” spreads out like a vast stage upon which dances these sacred visions, and then, as quickly as they appeared, they vanish, sent away either by the eclipse of night’s darkness or day’s bright shine.

Our central pillar candle, from which we lit our individual candles.

Our central pillar candle, from which we lit our individual candles.

The timing of this annual candle lighting ceremony could not be more appropriate. Here in late fall when the veil between light and dark thins to a transparent shawl the flicker of a single candle has the power to bring this mystery to mind. If peace of mind is possible, then let it befall us now as we watch the living light flutter. In the glow that it throws off, let us think of how this “and” connects our sadness and our joy, making of them one whole expression of love for our children whom we grieve. Let us also think of “and” as the motor for our practice of hope. For as we lose steam and feel the impossible weight upon our shoulders, we can summon the strength of this “and” to link us to our next activity. I will sink into bed and I will rise again. I will cry these tears of sadness and I will surely laugh again. I will despair of the ineptitude of my apparent hopeless disposition and then I will speak to friends of the necessity of hope.

Related Blog Posts: Written by Will: Dead Reckoning and Death Literacy/Death Faire ; Written by Joanne: Holding Space & Sitting with Grief, Celebrating (with) Our Dead, and Creative Grief Work