By Rick Hamlin
Pray with Hope
“What about tomorrow?” my father-in-law asked from his hospital bed. Looking small, diminished, painfully thin in his gown, his words interrupted by wheezing and a cough, the oxygen delivered to his lungs offering little comfort, his blue eyes still danced when he talked.
He was telling us stories of his life. “I lived a long time,” he said—both Carol and I noting the past tense, not “have lived” but “lived.” He said he couldn’t sleep at all, but as he lay awake, the TV offering images of waterfalls, fields of flowers, snow-capped mountains, shimmering lakes, he retold himself stories of the past, changing significant details around so that where the endings had been sad or painful, they were now moments of triumph.
No, despite his advanced age, he is not suffering from dementia. He’s quite sharp. Knows every visitor and can focus on every update. He was a writer by profession, a newspaper reporter, and still has the journalist’s mind for the probing question. “That’s always the last question,” he said. “What about tomorrow?”
The doctors have their answers, but that’s not what he’s after, waving away my questions about medical prognosis like a pesky fly. I realized then that it’s hope he cares about, hope that matters more than a chemo treatment or an oxygen mask, hope that takes us on its journey far from this world. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, in the Bible’s transcendent phrase (Hebrews 11:1).
“It is always fair to pray with hope,” a friend of mine once told me.
“We’ll hope to see you when we come back,” Carol said as we left him. Her dad pointed to the place on his unshaven cheek where he requested a kiss. We pray with hope. It’s the only way to pray.