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.