Several months ago, when I was dropping the kids off at my Grandmother’s house, my attention was caught by a story on the TODAY show. The story was about a person who had woken from a coma. I tend to notice all of those stories, but then this had the phrase I hate. The patient woke up when, “the family was just about to give up hope”. This isn’t just a pet peeve. This phrase cuts me to the core every single time I hear it. There are so many things about the phrase that get me. And I’m not going to claim that any of them are rational. I know those stories aren’t about *me*. Regardless, they get me. So, if you can’t put up with some crazy, you should stop reading here.
When a person wakes from a coma, just in the nick of time, and the family never gave up hope? It implies that I did, and if I hadn’t, Mark would have woken up. Because, you know, just a little more hope would have turned those black brain scans back to ones full of light and activity. A little more hope would have cleared his lungs. A little more hope would have made it possible for him to swallow without choking to death. If only I’d had more hope.
Mark’s dad, Larry, literally never gave up hope that Mark would wake. We were at the hospice unit where Mark would die in 8 days and Larry was still urging Mark to wake. It got so painful that I asked him to stop when I was in the room. I just couldn’t hear it. So, if just having hope wakes someone from a coma? Larry would have been enough hope for all of us.
I hear “hope” and “faith” the same way. If only I’d had more hope/faith. Which means what? I didn’t pray right? The hundreds of strangers lifting Mark up in whatever prayer/thoughts/pleading to their own personal God or high power didn’t count? That’s what I hear when someone says they had faith.
I know. I know that, logically, nothing would have changed if I’d had more hope. I think it hurts me to hear that phrase, too, because if Mark had woken up…he wouldn’t have been Mark any longer. He would have been a shell. Probably. At some point, I knew it was better to let him go. His body could have lived on life support and in a coma for a long time. He had already fought of lung infections that would have quickly killed older, sicker patients. But we had talked about it and I knew he wouldn’t want to live like that. But, if I’d had more hope, and he had woken up, I would have sentenced him to a life trapped in a broken body and mind. Probably. But, I’ll never know for sure.
You can’t imagine how hopeless that still makes me feel.