Hope? After this dark week? Yeah, that’s how I felt, until my friend surprised me by saying that I was the most hope-filled person she knows! And I began to wonder…why? Why do others say I am a person of hope? What makes a person of hope?
I was three years old, alone, in darkness, my head throbbing with pain, strange smells, strange bed, and foreign voices. Where was my mom? Where was Dad?
The car crash had instantly killed my father and injured my mother. Choking and deprived of oxygen, I was within moments of death when they found me and began doing CPR on me. With a cracked skull, concussion, a ruptured eardrum, bruises and a black eye, I was sent to Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee. Alone and far away from my mom, who was in the hospital in another city, my prognosis was not good. My two aunts visited me regularly to sit and hold me in their arms, but I refused to eat anything and turned to sleep. When it became obvious that there was no physical reason why I couldn't survive, my male nurse worried that I was giving up on life, that the darkness and pain was too much to bear. Life without hope is no life at all.
At the nurse's bidding, my mom recorded a tape and sent it to me. It was her voice singing songs to me, telling me stories, and saying how much she loved me. I can still hear those soft words in my mind to this day. She was a mother in one hospital bed calling out to her child alone in another hospital: “Live! Choose to live! I love you!”
And on that tape, my mother read me the story The Little Engine That Could. Do you remember a favorite book from your childhood? This one is mine. The little blue engine said yes to help pull the train loaded with toys and good gifts for children to the other side of the mountain. Pulling with all her might, that little blue engine chugged up the hill, repeating, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.”
This children’s story still quickens my heart today and stirs up emotions inside me. It has become the mantra of my life.
I decided then and there to live. After listening to the entire tape with my eyes open, I decided that I was not going to give up on life. I began the fight to live. And when my aunt offered me a mashed banana after the recording was over, I ate it. Something stirred in my breast and made me believe that no matter how awful the darkness was that I was going through, life would still be worth living. Wow! I healed!
The next few years of life would be hard and mournful. Losing my father was the foremost reason for my clinging to hope. Growing up without my dad is a loss that only feels itself deepen, not fade, with time. Therefore, I know that it is our various trials in life that influence us and teach us the reality of hope. We choose to be hope-filled.
Hope is courage. Hope is endurance. Since my childhood, I have chosen to live by the motto “I think I can!” and “I thought I could!” And onward through this vale of tears and over mountains, this little engine keeps chugging along, hopeful, optimistic, and smiling!
I know I can!