Hope is the beguiling optimist who enchants me to another day.  She whispers encouragement to open my eyes; the trickster who takes advantage during that fracture of time between sleep and consciousness. The brief second that I lie suspended between my dreams and the world. That brief moment before dread sweeps through me and I realize that my waking world is the nightmare.  The dread of another day watching my husband battle for his life.


Today, Hope watches me, shaking her head.  I’m blubbering on the cold, sterile tile floor of the hospital bathroom, my temporary hideout each week that Les is infused for 36 hours with chemotherapy – his treatment.  I’ve taken a short break while he sleeps knowing that when I return, his face will have taken on an ashy green tone. Hope is demanding, “Put it in a box—we need you up and at ‘em”. I splash cold water on my face and take a deep breath. Hope shadows me back to the infusion room. She’s popular here—like a diva rock star.   To me, she’s become more like a stalker. Why does she insist on pursuing me so relentlessly?


I guess we have a long relationship together and she’s been walking alongside me as long as I can remember sharing my carefree, youthful optimism.   She was with me, along with Wonder, as I jumped from a plane and instead of worrying about plummeting toward the earth, I was enraptured with the gentle curve of our blue planet, the black blanket of space above me and the brilliance of life. Yes, she was there just to say “I told you so.”


Our relationship has changed now, and Hope uses my trust against me. Hope seems a little too much like a cartoon character that is flamboyant and unreliable. Les is skeletal. He’s long since stopped eating  solid food. No amount of cajoling, cannabis or care will help him eat more soup, bone broth, and protein infused smoothies.  Hope has become the fair-weather friend that has cast me off like an old shirt. 


I am blessed to have walked Les to death’s portal.  It is through the very narrow opening between worlds that I feel the vivid love and peace he is headed toward.  But, as is the way, I am quickly pulled back to this grey and muddled world; my disappointment in that I cannot follow.  Standing at this edge, fully in the moment, vulnerable without a reference point to grasp this loss; I am unmoored.


Les has been gone for nine months now.  I’ve let Hope go on her way to beguile someone else for the time being. I think Hope’s stardom is overrated despite her litany of endorsements; “Don’t lose Hope—Hope for the Best—Hope to see you soon”. 


Don’t get me wrong- I’m not angry or worried about this. I feel pragmatic.  The Loss of my husband unveiled our impermanence and the ephemeral nature of who we are.  I have stood at the edge of the unknown and found a steadfast and reliable, weathered friend with me.  I remember that truly what grounds me and is always reliable is Love.

—Claudia Carlough