To Hope Anyway

Zach was hope.

I could sit on the couch across the room, look at him and think in an offhanded and assured way, “that is what hope looks like.” I could hear laughter or strumming guitar from my room, indicators that life was moving forward with a soundtrack rather than with the silence of illness.

I thought that hope was easy, because Zach made it look that way. And I am only now realizing, through the lens of my own sadness, that hope is really a virtue.

People often say you need to “have hope”- like it’s this thing you can capture, cage, and keep  with you.

But you don’t just “have” hope when your life is threatened with zealous bone cells or slogged through chemo machines. You don’t just “have” hope when you watch helplessly as your brother dies, when you try to pack all the future, past, and present love you feel into a weak whisper an inch away from a cooling ear.

Because every needle prick, every inflamed rash, every pulsing and tender tumor forces the decision to hope to be made over and over. Hope takes practice and intention.

Zach had to decide that threat of death would not take him alive, that the best case scenario could be real. Even at the end, when there was no best case scenario, he made one. He hoped anyway. I saw him fight for it.

The year after Zach’s death, life was really negative for me, and I was pretty much awash in anxiety 24/7.

There were mornings where I didn’t want Collin to leave for work because I was afraid I would never see him again, phone calls to my mom that I was afraid of losing everyone and being alone, and office desk day dreams of what I would say to Zach if I could see him once more- I wouldn’t say anything at all, I’d just hug him.

But after months of this, after months of thinking about how to live my life in comparison to how Zach lived his, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you live life obsessed with sadness, you will quickly perish before you die.

It seems obvious, that constant sadness isn’t a way to live, but sadness is so easy. Bursting into tears is always easier than holding the sting of salty eyes under dark eyelids, your tongue pressing against the top of your mouth. It’s easier to curl into feather-stuffed comforter until 1 p.m. rather than drag yourself to work or your next therapy session.

But doing the easy thing is the joyless thing. Deciding to hope, deciding that the best case scenario can be real, deciding that disappointment might happen but realizing that all of it is saturated with some purpose- it’s worth it. Sometimes time doesn’t heal everything- most of the time it compacts loss into smaller more digestible cubes. So, hope is a process- the more you decide to hope, the easier it gets. Most of the time, it takes a grace and a strength outside of this world, but it is out there.

When you push yourself outside of your own life and the constraint of its timeline, you explode into a world of peace.

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18 thoughts on “To Hope Anyway

  1. Melissa patterson duggins

    Ali, I have thought of you so often and wondered how you were doing. I know what it is to not have my parents thru cancer, but never my brother or sister who got their lives cut so short. I do understand though thru losing friends, the thoughts of being sad or getting up. I fight that alot. And most of the time, I choose to get up thankfully and I bet you are too, because you are stronger than you know, you have proved that to all of us. I just listened to Zachs songs yesterday to get me thru a horrible day. And he brought me some smiles, and a tear. Please know, he brings so many people joy and hope every day from the heavens above. I hope life is bringing you some hope and some joy in your new adventures. Sending you irish catholic puffy cloud prayers and lots of hope and hugs.

  2. IH

    So nice to ‘hear’ from you again via these writings.
    I know that how you may actually feel sometimes isn’t always how you want to feel. And I know that despite your deepest desires to feel or think one way or another doesn’t always get you to that place.
    I have lost people to cancer and still think of these people every day, and sometimes wonder what life would have been like if they had carried on as healthy, vibrant, living beings. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have one last day with them. But after all of my ‘wishing’ and ‘wanting’ I’m always brought back to the realization that I can only carry them with me as they are now. As many times as I wish or want, I know that I can only smile, or cry, or laugh about what those people would be thinking of me, of things, of life right now. Sometimes that’s all I need to get through a moment. I know they’d be laughing right along with me — or at me — of they’d be thinking things through, or shouting instructions from the heavens when there’s something that I just know *they’d* be the ones I would go to with it…
    I know you’ve mentioned often being able to feel Zach carrying you through. May your heart swell with the warmth, the smile, and the personal truths that you are working through when you think of your brother. These moments may sometimes bring tears or arms reached out straight for that one last, hopeful hug, but these moments are also part of what makes us human…part of what allows us to connect to other people, and part of what makes us be able to love so deeply. Continue sharing that love with those in your world and that love will always be with you.

  3. Cindy Watts Smith

    Thank you for your post. Your words always bring a tear to my eye and a smile to my heart. Sending good thoughts and hope to you today.

  4. Jane Morrison

    Allie your brother was such an inspiration to the whole world and accomplished more in his short life then most people do In a lifetime ,I lost my husband to melanoma skin cancer and my son has had 27 pre-melanoma moles removed and 1 full blown and it’s a farce thing,I have read your moorhens book and so glad to have it and Zach’s CDs I listen to clouds often ,I have a picture of Zach’s on the back cover nope my bible and the inscription reads Zach Sobiech = inspiration thank you for keeping us his fans and also of your family may The Lord Jesus Christ bless you with peace

  5. Ally Behrens

    Ali,
    You are a beautiful writer. You’re views are inspiring. Zach was lucky to have you for a sister. Thank you for sharing this with us.
    Ally

  6. Rob Sobiech

    Well put… it’s “deciding”. You nailed it.
    And for me, it’s “deciding” each day. But that’s OK, it doesn’t have to be a one time deal.

  7. Your posts are honest, painful, poignant and dare I say it – hope. You work through things including your feelings and it is inspirational because we will all know loss and pain and sometimes the sharing can help us all get through it.

  8. Lynette Walters

    Ali, You are so right. I think having hope is a gift from God that not everyone seems to be able to reach as easily as others. I have this gift, I don’t know why. I see the blessings in everything even while mourning the death of my daughter Muriel. I miss her so much but immediately my mind goes to the blessing she brought us and the everyday blessings before us.
    Though the other night I couldn’t sleep thinking about her last hours. So the “gift” alluded me the other night.

  9. Anne

    I think that one of the hardest things to deal with when you lose someone close to you is that you also lose that blissfully ignorant insulation surrounding you, that bad things like illness and death happen to “other people” that you hear about. All of a sudden, you’ve been admitted into the club that no one wants to join, but that most of us already belong to. You realize that other people who have experienced the same thing have also felt the same feelings as you, like pure grief, depression, abandonment (yes!) and a dull, never-ending sorrow. I wouldn’t call the decision to keep on going and believing in spite of knowing that bad things happen and it could (and might) happen again hope, but just plain courage. It takes courage and hope to keep on, knowing that there are no guarantees of a happy ending, but continuing on regardless.

  10. Kenned costa

    Hi, My name is kennedy’s Brazilian. Today the day was quite difficult complained of things that now have become silly, learned a lot from Zach found the video of it on you Tube stopped watched and cried very much wanted to have known and embraced have said that in the end all would be fine I’m sure he okay I will pray for him and bring me his teachings became a better human being after him. I wish you to be happy as Zach wanted.

  11. April Bolt

    I ran across Zach’s documentary on Facebook. From the moment I meet him I was drawn in with his sweet spirit. I ordered his CD and your mothers book. Thank you so much for sharing your love for Zach with us. Even though I didn’t know him personally I feel connected. I am a mother of 4 kids, 2 boys and 2 girls. My middle son has the same birthday as Zach”s. My life is blessed and more richer cause of your precious brother Zach’s life and how he lived it. My 4 year old knows the words Clouds word for word now. So sweet to hear her sing it!!! God Bless you and your family!

  12. I felt like this was written for myself. For many years I have lived with severe pain and on Friday I will be beginning a trial where wires will be ran from my lower spine into my brain to help block the pain signal. I have been so scared to have hope that this will help as nothing else has. In reading your post about hope has helped me to have hope that this can help me get my life back. Thank you

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