by Fiona Lotherington, Registered Nurse and Complementary Health Practitioner, Northern NSW.
You may think that the word evil is extreme when describing the effect of hope. Yet I define evil as anything that holds back our growth and development and anything which perpetuates the separation from the truth of who we are or which delays the healing needed to return to our essence. Defined in this way, evil and hope are perfect bedfellows.
I was recently listening to a friend talk about his experience with his partner who had died many years ago from breast cancer. As he shared the details of the events around her illness and eventual death, the word ‘hope’ came up several times. Each time I heard this word, I experienced a growing sense of dis-ease, as I became aware of what a detrimental role hope had played in her illness and death.
For a moment this surprised me, as hope is normally considered to be a virtue. Like a warm coat in winter, it is used to comfort ourselves or other people when we are ‘down on our luck’. It is common to hear people say, “I hope you get better soon” or “don’t give up hope” and consider this a kindness. We give generously to charities dedicated to researching medical conditions, in the hope that a cure will be discovered.
When I looked at the definition of hope, it spoke of having an expectation or desire for something to happen or wishing for a positive outcome. Reading these words confirmed for me the evil of hope and how it could wreak such havoc in our lives.
In the case of my friend and his partner, the hope they clung to prevented them from accepting the diagnosis or the reality of the rapidly growing breast cancer. The searching and hoping kept them focused in the future, believing they would eventually find a cure. But in reality, this chase was a distraction from dealing with the severity and urgency of the situation. Like a magician’s trick, hope distracted them, drawing their attention away from what was really taking place before their eyes.
Hope allows us to stay stuck in a loop, repeating patterns and cementing beliefs that do not heal the root cause of our illness. In hoping that ‘something’ will change, we avoid taking responsibility for these patterns we are stuck in. Instead we place our hopes outside of us and wait for the elusive cure, the great healer or the latest treatment. This outward focus means that we never look inside to see what this illness means for us or the part we have played in it. We miss the opportunity to heal the root cause that this illness is presenting.
In the end, hope leaves us surprised and completely unprepared when the reality of dying inevitably hits home. All the denial, all the hope is revealed for what it is; illusion and delay. Suddenly with only days left, my friend and his partner were met with everything they had avoided facing. Hope had prevented them from using the precious time leading up to her death to heal and prepare for her passing.
As a nurse and friend, I have seen that there is so much to be healed and gained through the palliative care process, not only for the person who is dying but everyone around them. Surrendering to and taking responsibility for the process, supports the looking at, dealing with and healing of old patterns, deepening of relationships and completing anything left outstanding from this life. In this way, we are released from these impediments and left free to move on.
What better way to prepare for our next life?