Chaplain: Keiichi Mattsumoto 松本桂一
Title:"What does hope mean to you?"
"What does hope mean to you?" That is a question worth asking yourself.
At the hospital where I work as a chaplain, patients often ask me for advice about their image of hope. I have learned that hope is a complex thing. Hope is sometimes troubling, and for many people facing serious illness or death, hope is not synonymous with positive thinking.
Let me tell you about the hope portrayed by a 55-year-old man I met last year who had multiple cancers. His doctors were perplexed by his condition and were unable to provide him with adequate treatment. I met him the day the doctors told him that they could not treat him any further and would recommend palliative care.
He was in tears because of a dream he had had the night before. He told me that he had grown up in El Salvador and that his first wife had died of cancer. In the dream, he saw the doors of the church he had attended as a child open and the Virgin Mary, who resembled his late wife, greeting him on the other side. The dream and the doctor's pronouncement coincided, and he felt anxious and as if he were being told to give up and come home. He had endured repeated painful treatments in which he would be able to walk a little and then collapse again, and his family had been through a lot together, but he felt that he had to continue to fight on.
After that dream, as he thought about his illness, he realized something. Stopping treatment and receiving palliative care does not mean giving up. He realized that even though he could not move as much as before, had no appetite, and was in a less than ideal state, palliative care would allow him to spend time with his family, which he cherished more than anything else. He shared with me his hope that he would not spend the rest of his life holding on to the unfulfilled hope that he would be cured of his cancer, but that he would live the rest of his life with gratitude for the time he had with his family.
For him, hope was not about hoping for a better outcome, but about letting go. It was about letting go of hope for a cure and cherishing the short time remaining. Our encounter reminded me of St. Ignatius' prayer of self-offering.
Take, O Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will. Whatever I have or hold, You have given me; I restore it all to You and surrender it wholly to be governed by Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace, and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.
I am convinced that the hope of the believer in Christ is not only to achieve his goals, but also to embrace love, which is intangible and eternal, by giving himself to it.