Livin’ on a Hopeful Prayer
“Hey Mom, my coach says hope is weakness. Is that true?”
This was the question I was hit with when I picked up Tommy from school the other day. I would’ve rather had some time to prepare an answer, but this is parenting, and we never get those luxuries, so instead, I stalled for time by asking a follow-up question.
“Why does your coach think hope is a weakness?”
“He says it’s because hoping for something means you’re not making something happen and that we should take action instead of sitting back and hoping.”
In an effort to quickly and effectively answer my son’s question, I quickly looked around for a source of- I’m killing it as a parent- wisdom. I saw my old Case Logic CD case resting on the back seat of my car. Case Logic means 80s rock, and 80s rock means two things. Big hair and Bon Jovi. Perfect.
“Okay, Tommy. Here’s what I’d say. You know the song Livin’ on a Prayer?”
“Of course. You play it all the time.”
“Okay, good. Do you remember the two people in the song?”
“Yea, Tommy, and Gina.”
I tried to hide my- well this is proof that I’ve taught my kids all the right things, the things that really, truly matter in life- filled smile.
“Yep. That’s right. And you know the song is about their struggle and their determination to make it through?”
“Mom, you’re not answering my question.”
“Yea, I know, but just stick with me for a minute. I think you’ll get it once I explain.”
Tommy leaned back in his seat, looked out the window, and unsuccessfully tried to suppress a smile.
In this classic, generation-defining song, two young lovers decide it’s them against the world. They live, and they fight, and they love. And they hope that, against all the odds, they’ll make it through because they’ve got each other. No wonder this song was such an epic hit. We all secretly want that. The fairy tale of finding the love of your life and defying all odds because you’ve fought the good fight rings true in all our hearts. It’s the shit fairy tales, or ageless rock songs, are made of.
“But Mom, I don’t get it. If Tommy and Gina didn’t know what was going to happen, why did they keep fighting so hard?”
“Simple. They did it because they had hope.”
I sat back and waited for the ahh-ha moment that never came. Tommy was quiet for a moment before picking up my phone and choosing to play the newest Post Malone song.
I’m still not sure if Tommy understood the point I was trying to make, but it did get me thinking about the relationship between hope and weakness. Did Tommy’s coach have a point?
Other than my Case Logic collection of the best of the 80s, I only have my own experience to draw from in making these conclusions. I began to think back to the times in my life when I felt the weakest: emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
Immediately, a picture I try not to think about clearly formed in my head. I was back in my hospital bed at MD Anderson. It was the day of my last post-transplant chemo. My body had been killed off, and my spirit was broken. I was weak in every single sense of the word. So weak, in fact, that when my nurse came in at 4 am to hook up the last bag of the potent poison that would kill off either me or the cancer, whatever came first, I told her no. I asked my nurse to take it away and to let me be. I decided I was done. Giving up and drifting off into a peaceful forever sleep would have been so much easier. I was done, and there was no talking me out of it.
But my nurse didn’t let me give up. Together, Tom and my nurse reminded me of all the reasons I had to fight and begged me to keep going just a little longer. I squeezed their hands in acknowledgment and endured the last and final chemo. The decision to go on was not by choice, but it was by hope.
Surrender would have been the easy thing to do, the comfortable thing to do, the weakest thing to do. Fighting was hard as hell, scary as hell and hopeful as hell. I thought about Tommy’s coach and his words and firmly decided- hope is absolutely not a weakness. Hope is strength clothed in courage.
A few days later, Tommy was waiting for me as I pulled up to the front of the carpool line. He quickly opened the car door and jumped into the front seat, eager to tell me about his day.
“Mom, guess what?” he asks.
“I had class with my coach today, and I told him about Tommy and Gina.”
“You did? What’d you say?”
“Yea, I told him about Tommy and Gina and about them livin’ on that prayer and how strong they were. He asked me what happened to them at the end of the song and I told them I didn’t know but that I knew they were cool because they had that hope. And you know what my coach told me?”
“He said, it didn’t really matter what happened to them because they had each other and they were halfway there- same words that are in the song. Mom, I think he’s heard Bon Jovi!”
“Probably so sweet boy. Probably so.” I replied as I pulled my sunglasses down off the top of my head to cover my tear-filled eyes.
Tommy and Gina. Hope and weakness. Fight and surrender. Coaches vs. 80s rock classics. Two sides to every coin, sometimes with no clear winner.
And when we get a little lost or feel a little alone, remember, we’ll all make it. I swear we will because we are all just livin’ on a prayer.
In love and hope,