|Posted by Karen M. Wyatt on January 13, 2012 at 5:55 PM|
My daughter Emily recently recorded a cover version of the song We Found Love (in a Hopeless Place) and ever since I heard it I have been obsessed with the title. The idea of love arising where there is hopelessness is so intriguing and appealing to me that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. And then, I was given the opportunity to see this very idea become a reality.
Just five days ago my husband and I flew on short notice to Minnesota to be at the bedside of his 94-year-old father while he lay dying of pneumonia. He was receiving hospice care in a nursing home and was not expected to live more than a few hours.
The mention of a nursing home conjures up a whole assortment of negative images for me as I recall visits to a facility where my own grandfather spent his final years. I remember the drab colors, sickening odors, dingy floors and pitiful cries for help that filled the hallway as we made our way to Grandpa’s room. In those days I could think of no place so hopeless as a home where the elderly and ill are sent to dwindle and die.
We arrived at the nursing facility, which to our relief was clean, odor-free, quiet and comfortable, to find my father-in-law in the final stages of dying: deeply comatose, immobile and unresponsive. Only the cyclical rhythm of his breathing and the occasional churning of his eyebrows indicated that there was a remnant of life in his body.
From the perspective of physical existence on this planet, his life had reached a hopeless state. There would be no remedy or growth or survival from this point forward—just the slow ebbing of the life-force as his body exhausted every last particle of energy from its cells.
We held a vigil through the night, not wanting him to die alone when we had traveled so far to be at his side. Dozing lightly we listened to every breath, like first-time parents with a newborn in the room. His body, now shrunken and withered, had once been newly born and full of the promise of life, but here he was at the end of it, ready to leave this existence.
As the physical body dries up, sputters out, wears down and fades away there is a pervasive, deep sense of despair that hovers nearby. Yet even in this desert of hopelessness as we sat at his bedside, love flourished.
Love—in the words and tears of his children’s farewells, in the sweet touch of a nurse administering medication, in the gentle benediction whispered by the chaplain—love illuminated the room and revealed what had been hidden before.
This moment of transition that is hopeless on the physical plane is the same moment that overflows with possibility on the spiritual plane. This is the moment that arises just before the release of the soul to a new existence, inspired and animated by love.
So, too, the broken and dark parts of ourselves that flounder in a hopeless state can be reinvigorated by love, transformed to new possibilities and released to a new existence. When despair hovers nearby we must hold vigil through the night, listen to every breath and wait for the moment of transition to arrive.
This is the key to understanding the meaning of both life and death: that we are here precisely to find love in all the hopeless places. And the secret is that the love is already here and everywhere – we only need to see it.