The Year Hope Died


It came on suddenly although apparently they had been failing for some time without us fully realizing it. We had always counted on them to pull us through the difficult moments, the worst of times, those days when we felt like we couldn’t go on any longer. But we neglected to focus enough on their wellbeing and durability, until it was too late on that fateful day.

The last year of Hope’s life was excruciating. They bore witness to untold disasters and converging crises, too many to list here and it doesn’t really matter anyway now. Despite their own flagging reserves and diminishing prospects, they were always urging us toward innovation and inspiration, making a sense of the possible seem real. That was their gift.

Hope insisted that we not lose momentum and purpose, that there was a bigger picture and a longer arc of destiny in store beyond the troubles of the day, as dire as things often were. They knew, however, that this overarching belief didn’t alleviate our responsibility to act but rather gave it a context in which it could be effective. They told us that we really didn’t need them (which we refused to accept), insisting that doing the hard work of change could provide us with better lives no matter what. They gave us license to persist even when logic dictated otherwise. And they were right for years … decades. Until they weren’t.

They were brave but not unbreakable, and finally that awful desperate year we all came to realize that even Hope — pure, fierce, uncompromising, lovable Hope — had their limits. They bent to the point of being unrecognizable, losing themselves in the struggle. This is what the world demanded of them and they met that burden with dignity and grace. Yet as with many great leaders, they had a concealed breaking point.

I want to tell you more about Hope, but they are lost to us now in our darkest hour. We will persevere without them somehow in an attempt at bare survival in our rudderless grief. I suppose they would have at least wanted that much for us. Still, I recall their final words, which seemed incomprehensible at the time but are beginning to come to light for me now: “I am only as strong as you are, and my future is in you.” Rest in power, old friend; may we meet on the other side.

NOTE: Sometimes when I assign something in a class, I complete the task in real-time as well. This one wasn’t quite on the mark and probably would’ve gotten a B- for its troubles, but in general it stayed true to the idea of finding pathways toward wellness in difficult times — you know, the light-in-the-dark and blade-of-grass-growing-out-of-concrete kinda thing — and doing it in less than 500 words. This was a bit more on the challenge side but the sliver of, um, hope is there.