"And good it says hope"
Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul
and sings the tune without the words
and never stops at all.
~ Emily Dickinson
"And good it says hope," she says pointing to the word. It was the way she said it, leaning into me, almost at a whisper, and with a hint of a smile, that it seemed she knew what it meant. I had continually been trying to stir up some memory of Christmas for her: pointing to our names on the reindeer ornament, singing carols, reading through the stack of Christmas books, and guiding her hand to hang up an ornament on the tree, but this year she couldn't have seemed more lost in it all. Yesterday it felt like she was ever so far away, brushing away her presents, saying, "that's not warm" as her fingers touched the wrapping paper.
We had a present wrapping tradition in the Sullivan household. Eating cookies and sipping hot chocolate, we would sit on the floor with our backs to each other; wrapping paper, bows, and tape, pilled high in the center of the living room. You would hear warnings of, "don't peak!" being shouted back and forth over the Christmas music, until we ran out of tape, or all of the presents were under the tree. One year, my dad's snow boot went missing and wasn't found until Christmas morning when my brother toddled over one last present that had been hiding at the back of the tree. There was dad's boot, with bits of different colored wrapping paper and ribbons stuffed in and around it. Yet, our tradition still lived on, along with trudging through the snow to pick out the most perfect tree, and finding carrot scraps and reindeer droppings in the front yard on Christmas morning (oh yes, they would collect deer droppings from the woods to scatter about). Christmas was entirely magical. So magical in fact, that one Christmas Eve my parents sat on the edge of my bed with The Polar Express and when we got to the final pages, they overly emphasized the parents not being able to hear the bell anymore. They waited silently for me to respond, and as my father started pacing the room, they began to spell it out for me. No one my age still believed, and they must have started feeling a bit weary that I had endless hope in Santa Clause that just wouldn't fade.
That hope, or sometimes plain stubborn spitfire will, is something that mom and I have always shared. In the earlier days of her diagnoses, my dad and I would find notes scribbled on backs of envelopes: "Brain transplant? Pills for Picks?" She has never given up hope, fighting with everything she has. While "Christmas" seemed to have no meaning, "hope" still caught her spirit and her smile. I realize now, even though it was hard to see yesterday, that she still holds Christmas in her heart. For I just don't believe that these traditions and memories disappear into nothing. As Emily Dickinson beautifully says, "Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stop at all."
From our hearts to yours, may the rest of your holiday season be filled with love and endless hope.