“I was once like you…” The old man averted my eyes for a split second, he rubbed his own eyes and then looked down his hands. “I once lost hope…”
“It’s not that I lost hope I have just lost any ability to see a brighter future for myself.”
“That is hope.”
“I have always been overly hopeful, overly positive…”
“I have noticed that in you.”
“I am broken now, pop. I don’t know what to do…”
Silence. He was looking at his thumbs as they circled one another and then placed both hands on the table in front of him.
“You are hurt, you are injured but you are not broken. As long as you are still alive you are not broken. Cracked, scarred and possibly your inner faith has been crippled – but no one has died, son. You just need to stand up, dust yourself off and take it one step at a time.”
“It’s really not that simple, pop.”
“I know. My father once told me that during the depression he had lost any sense of providing for his family. He went to speak with his father and his father laughed at him.”
“Why did he laugh?”
“Because his father did not speak any english, was 75 years old and had just arrived in New York, on a ship from Beirut in steerage class.”
“What is steerage?”
“Steerage is the bottom of the ship – rats, no air, crowded accommodations and death. So he told my father that hope was all that he clung to. He focussed on his destination and being with his family again.”
“Why did he laugh though?”
“He laughed because he had lost hope more times than he could remember. In Syria they were constantly living in fear for their lives. Finally he was given the opportunity to escape and his hope was reborn.”
“Again, why did he laugh?”
“Because hope is not a living breathing organ. Hope can seem dead sometimes but a simple gesture by another person, a smile, a songbird a child’s smile…can cause the hope to be reborn and once again propel that person back to life. You see, if life was a simple straight line and you didn’t face problems you would probably find something else to lose hope about. Some events in life we shouldn’t know about – but the ebb and flow of money should be your worst problem.”
“That’s true but it still kills me – I give it all to the kids, pop – I need a new suit,a haircut; but I ignore my own needs to give to my wife and kids.”
“As you should.”
“But why can’t I just have an easy time monetarily? My friends they have big homes, go on multiple trips during the year, but fancy jewelry and shop at-”
“Would you switch lives with any of them?”
“No but that’s not the point-”
“The point is you have what you need to survive – hope will come and go – you may think that it’s gone but there is always a dimly lit flame of hope inside of you as long as your heart is beating.”
“I want more though, pop, I want to be more than I am.”
“There is that hope you said was gone.” His eyes twinkled. “If you still want more, than you still have hope and you still are alive. There is nothing wrong with wanting more as long as you don’t lose focus and appreciation on just how much you already have.”
I sat there contemplating those words and then a cold breeze woke me…
I stood up and walked away from the stone with his name on it. Said a quick prayer under my breath and walked to my car.
The sky was overcast but there were some breaks in the clouds which revealed some blue skies. There was a cold breeze blowing and the floor was still damp and icy but somehow I felt warm.
I thought about his words, my words; “You may think that it’s gone but there is always a dimly lit flame of hope inside of you as long as your heart is beating.”
I thought about his eyes and I thought about how time has truly swept me up and thrust me into this present future I once dreamed about. I had everything I needed, he is right. I did want more and is there anything wrong with wanting more? “As long as I don’t lose focus and appreciation on what I already have.”
Were these words his words or were they mine?
Possibly they were his thoughts that he taught me as a father, as a human being, that now came to life a few years after he had physically left us. I was the son of my father and as long as that was the case, as long as my heart was still beating – the flame of hope inside of me would never fade away.