The medical researcher Jerome Groopman reminds us that, “science operates around a core of uncertainty, within which lie setbacks.” But, he adds, “also hope.”

            Emily Dickinson tells us that, “hope is the thing with feathers.” My heart held scant perches for hope. I hoped my husband would continue to recognize me. I hoped that he would remain comfortable and content. I hoped that he would die before he reached a vegetative state. And I summoned up hope that someday soon a cure would be found for those in the earliest stages of dementia.

            Groopman cautions that hope needs to be “rooted in unalloyed reality.” It can’t be a thing in flight. It must be anchored, its toes wrapped firmly around a sturdy branch as it bobs about in ill winds.

            Unlike the poet’s bright-feathered birds, my hopes seemed so small, like dun-colored sparrows sheltering in a shrub. For Dick, the trees were barren of birds. They’d flown away. As his sense of past and future vanished, so, too, did his capacity for hope––since hope hovers ahead of us, in the future.

Anne-Marie Erickson

Featured image: Anna Cain. Bird with Berries, n.d.

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