Denial and Hope

I read this:
“I did not yet know how many ways there are of denying what it is too frightening to admit.”
-Iris Origo

The memory of Philip lying unconscious and collapsed in his hospital bed is burned into the picture gallery of my mind. Officially a hospice patient as of that Saturday afternoon, I was told he’d be moved to the hospice wing on Monday. So, late that night, I went back to the hospital to sit with him again and kiss him goodnight. He was still alive and with me, while death remained somewhere abstractly down the road.  However, when I got to the ICU, the night nurse said he would die by morning. Shocked and disbelieving – denying what was too frightening to admit – I changed my plan. I wasn’t going anywhere that night.

I watched each I.V. bag drain. The bag with protein and albumen ran out; the bag with vitamins and minerals emptied; the bag of antibiotics dripped its last drip. As each bag emptied, the nurse returned, flipped off another switch, and removed the deflated bag. At each passing, I looked to her for the hope she would not give, rejecting and hating the truth she embodied. After 3 a.m., only morphine and oxygen were continued.

From midnight to dawn, I watched the monitor and relied on the continued beeps that reassured me that life went on. I held Philip, talked to him, washed his cheeks with my tears, watched the rise and fall of his chest with gratitude for each inhalation. Afraid to leave the room even to go to the bathroom, fearing I’d miss his final breath, I stayed by his side.

And even then, I thought he’d foil the prediction that he’d die by morning. Death was inconceivable. In fact, for the entire three months at the fasting retreat in Costa Rica, even as I watched him decline day by day, I believed he would recover. He believed he would recover. The living mind rejects the possibility of death, denies that which is too frightening to admit.

Amazing … how we see one thing with our eyes and believe something completely different with our hearts. Holding to hope beyond reason. As I wrote that last sentence, it occurred to me that denial can be seen as the dark side of hope. We don’t want to admit defeat, so we go on hoping. We don’t or can’t conceive of a life ending when there’s so much more to live and love, so we deny, disbelieve, and go on hoping. Hoping means that we go on seeking, go on trying, and even after death, hold stubbornly to love beyond life.

8 thoughts on “Denial and Hope

  1. You write with your heart and soul which I so admire. I can’t say I agree with you at times, but I know you are a good person with a big, loving heart. Hope to see you soon. L-D

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  2. David. If there’s one good thing that Philip’s death has given me, it’s this new chapter of greater love and acceptance between us. Thank you so much for being with me — agreeing and disagreeing. Love.

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    1. Thank you, Enja. Writing seems to be my way of holding the love close. Sharing it and hearing from others extends and expands the gift.

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  3. It’s so comforting to read the well thought out and perfectly placed words of scenes and feelings I’ve experienced. Thank you. Beautiful.

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  4. It has been my hope as a writer to allow the love and pain in my heart to open the heart-doors of others’. Thank you for letting me know that I have touched you.

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