I’ve spent many an uncomfortable night on the ground, but this particular floor met me with the grudges of 1000 previous patients who had slept within these walls. The caring nurses had apologized for not having a cot available for me to sleep on. Like it mattered at all.
Night time slows reasoning and time. I’d stopped trying to bargain with either one of those tormentors for the life of my brother lying in that bed. Truth is, I’d give anything just let him fight this and win.
Cancer is like that phone call you don’t expect. The one that came to me from my brother Eric the previous Wednesday. He was serving a mission in Canada. He spoke French all day, every day for almost 2 years and his halting, accented English showed it. It just made me love him more.
“Can you come pick me up at the airport tomorrow?” he asked.
“Krissy, I had a seizure last night. I’m sure it’s nothing. The doctors here found a mass on my brain but it’s ok. I just need to come home and double check.”
I picked him up on Thursday.
We saw the brain surgeon on Friday.
Surgery on Monday.
Found out it was cancer on Tuesday.
What a difference a week makes. What a difference a moment makes. What a difference a person
makes. What a difference THIS person makes.
My mom was exhausted. I sent her home. I wanted to sit with him in the dark. He’d been doing the same thing for me since he could walk. Truth was, I was okay with him leaving home for any number of reasons...school, God, marriage, family. But Cancer of the brain? That unexpected check-mate was unwelcome, unholy and in Eric’s case straight-up unjust.
Listening here in the dark hospital room, I heard Eric mutter something in French over and over. “Garder Espoir”. Keep hope. Keep hope. All night long. Keep hope.
I read to him because words have always comforted us. I sang to him because I didn’t know what else to do. I laid on the floor and held his hand because it was as close as I could get. I fell asleep on my knees praying. I’ve had children, seen death, and witnessed miracles. I thought I knew what prayer felt like. I was wrong. These prayers were seeping outta my pores. I was the sieve and hope was falling out like rain.
As with all dark nights though, dawn arrived.
“Keep Hope huh?” I tried to smile.
“What else is there?” he offered.
“What if…”I stammered.
“That’s possible” he replied.
“You will…”I stopped.
“I know….” he said.
“But I can’t….” I blubbered.
“Whose says you have to?” He was still comforting me. Even now.
If this conversation resonates with you, then you know what came next because you’ve lived it. The chemo, the radiation, the baldness, the aches, the doctor visits, the nausea, the $15,000 plate in his head, the praying, the seizure meds, the cancer humor.
“Garder Espoir” became our motto.
The word “keep” so beautifully defined his battle with cancer.
“To hold, to seize, to seek after, to desire, to guard, defend.”
The sieve inside of us slowly began to drip less and less simply because one person, one miracle, one doctor, one idea at a time plugged up just one of those little holes. Just one, just a little, over and over again. One doctor refused to doubt, one person would bring food, one person would listen, one doctor dared to attempt the surgery, innumerable prayers, several people donated, one person laughed with him, many shaved their heads, more people than I can count showed up and cheered. One little plug at a time until eventually, we all became reservoirs of hope. None of it leaked out. Not hope for a specific outcome, but hope to be okay regardless of the outcome and that felt like pure peace.
That was 13 years ago. Since then I’ve watched Eric wrestle with his kids on the floor, play board games on the floor, scrub floors, camp on the most inhospitable of floors and take naps on downy soft floors. Eric married his best friend, Lindsey. They have 4 kids. He is an accountant. He loves 2 things fiercely: God and his family. If there could be a 3rd, it would be the Utah Jazz, because hope springs eternal. Still.
Eric fought the Anti-plastic Astrocytoma tumor and won making him one of the rare. If you ask how that is even possible? He’d say “God had a few more things He needed me to do. That’s all.”
This is a tribute to all the “Keepers of Hope”. To the people who find us on the floor, curl up with us, cry with us, listen with us, cheer for us and encourage us to stand. In some cases even make it possible to do so by letting us lean on them. When we do even the littlest of things, we are literally plugging up the drain, helping them keep their hope alive. Because no one should fight alone.
Philosophers would tell us that winning and losing is all a matter of perspective.
Either way, some wars are lost and some are won but every single battle matters. And God bless those who find ways to help us "Keep Hope".