Hope: The Thing With Feathers?

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Hope had become a rare commodity in my soul. I tried my hardest to find it in nature, in the flowers I saw on my evening walks, the rainbow after a rain, the cute rabbits who jumped around my yard. The things that usually make me happy seemed flat. I couldn’t focus on reading, which is my usual escape route. Because of Covid-19, I couldn’t even have my regular weekly coffee date with the friend who knows how to solve all the worlds’ ills – or at least mine!

My family has had a rough go of it in the last twelve months, with my oldest daughter experiencing two pregnancy losses. As a parent, we hurt when our children hurt. And by “children,” I mean offspring of any age. Even when I see the beginning strands of gray in my daughter’s hair, she is still my little girl. When I took my sick cat to her office after she graduated from Veterinary School, I had flashbacks of her as a young child pretending to be a veterinarian. Yes, she’s an intelligent, accomplished professional, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t also forever my child.

Robert Munsch’s book, “Love You Forever,” has it so right when the older mother drives across town, sneaks into her son’s apartment, and cradles him while singing, “As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” No matter how old they are, they are always our babies.

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Everyone else sees this intelligent, competent veterinarian…

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I still see my little girl pretending to be a veterinarian.

There will never be a time when my children’s struggles don’t hurt my heart. My daughter’s pregnancy losses were devastating to the entire family, but mostly, I ached for her. Like most parents, I would have switched places if it spared her a moment of hurt, but the truth is, she has always been a stronger person than me.

Emily Dickinson describes hope as “the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.” It sounds very abstract to us non-poets. Where are we supposed to find hope? How do I seize onto that “thing with feathers?” My answer came in the form of this picture, an ultrasound of my granddaughter! Looking at my granddaughter’s first picture, I felt that little bud of hope beginning to bloom again in my heart, yet fighting for space amidst the joy was also the horrible bitter seed of fear.

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My granddaughter is waving to us as if to say, “Hi, I’m here and can’t wait to meet you!”

When my daughter announced her pregnancy at a family Zoom meeting, I was thrilled! I immediately whooped, jumped up and down, and cried happy tears. But after the initial excitement, I allowed that terrible feeling to creep in, the opposite of joy: fear and worry. Despite the testing that showed my new granddaughter to be healthy, I let those sneaky doubts start creeping in. My daughter is the strongest person I know, but what if she had to go through yet another devastating loss?

Then I stopped myself in my mental tracks. I was letting worry steal my happiness, and this child deserves every bit of eager anticipation from her grandmother. Every baby should have a loving family counting the days down to their arrival. Pregnancy during a pandemic carries its own challenges, but this baby is here at exactly the right time to give us hope, to give us a new and much-loved family member.

Emily Dickinson might describe hope as “that thing with feathers that perches in our soul,” but I know my own truth. Hope is that somewhat blurry image that is the promise of new life. Hope is envisioning the small child who already owns a big piece of my heart. Hope is buying pink baby clothes and decorating her nursery. Hope is counting the days until October 8, when our family will expand to include a new granddaughter. I can’t wait to hold “hope” in my arms!

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

 And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm – 

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me. 

 Emily Dickinson

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Categories: Grand Life