One time my mother was in the hospital critically ill. The doctors had given up hope. They said nothing could be done, all we could do was wait for the inevitable. She slept a good bit of the time, but once in awhile, she would open her eyes and say a few words. On one of these occasions, she said to me, “We’ve had some bad times, but we’ve had some good times, too, haven’t we?” She was looking for reassurance that the good times had, at least, occurred as often as the bad.
But my job (as I saw it) wasn’t to reassure a dying woman, my job was to try to convince her that she was not dying. So my answer was something like, “Yes, but I don’t want to hear you talking as if the times are about to be over. You just concentrate on getting better.”
I tried to persuade the doctors to come around to this point of view, as well, but they paid no attention to me. I imagine they thought I just didn’t want to accept the reality of the situation. But one thing they hadn’t reckoned on was my mother’s strength of will. She rallied. Two weeks after she entered the hospital, she left, wheeled down the corridor, smiling triumphantly – as all of the nurses and staff on the floor lined up on either side to applaud (literally) as she went by. It was like something right out of a movie scene. I’ve never forgotten it.
I found the poem below in a box of my mother’s things recently and it brought to mind the question she asked when she thought her time was short. I once read somewhere that life’s good times and bad times are like the ebb and flow of the ocean. The timing may not be as dependable as the ocean’s tide, but the certainty that we’ll experience both surely is.
My mother lived several more years after that hospital visit and passed away at the age of 95. I hope she knows that I do believe we had more good times than bad.
I’ve dreamed many dreams that never came true,
I’ve seen them vanish at dawn,
But I’ve realized enough of my dreams
To make me want to dream on.
I’ve trusted many a friend that failed,
And left me to weep all alone,
But I’ve found enough of my friends to be true
To make me keep trusting on.
I’ve prayed many prayers when no answer came,
Though I waited patient and long,
But answers have come to enough of my prayers
To make me keep praying on.
I’ve sown many seeds that fell by the way
For the birds to feed upon,
But I’ve held enough golden sheaves in my hands
To make me keep sowing on.
I’ve drained the cup of sadness and pain
And gone many days without song,
But I’ve sipped enough nectar from roses of life
To make me want to live on.
— Author Unknown
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