“…hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.” – Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption. Tonight as I sat through a viewing of my favorite film, I was reminded of this quote. I have literally watched this movie an innumerable number of times and that quote never really hit me like it did tonight. Hope is the quintessential Human emotion. It is unique in its ubiquitous applications. Hope finds itself at home equally lifting us up from the darkness of despair or elevating us ever higher through life’s crescendos. Hope reminds us that the worst of times will get better, and promises that the best of times will someday, somehow return. Hope is salvation and celebration wrapped up in one simple, yet profound, package. Hope is the unwritten promise that the future holds better times ahead. Hope is truly a good thing, maybe the best of things.
I can honestly say that on October 27th, 2012, I thought hope died with my little boy. They say the loss of a child is cruelest loss of all because it robs a parent, siblings and other family of the one thing we all believe is there for the young: a future. The loss of my boy, and his future that I played out in my mind the day he was born, represented the loss of hope for me. There was no hope that I would ever see his eyes light up on Christmas morning. There was no hope that I would witness his conquering of two wheeled independence on a bicycle. My hope of sharing that special father-son knowledge that my father passed on to me would never come to pass. Every hope and dream I had for Rees died with him on that day. If hope is the best of things, then my son’s death meant the loss of everything that was good in this world to me.
The hardest part about losing hope is that it does not happen all at once. It is said that when you die you see your life flash before you in an instant. The opposite is true when you lose a child. It is a painstaking process of realizations that build and build as you start to deconstruct the woven connections this tiny life had in the fabric of your own life. Each realization comes at different moments, unannounced and often completely unexpectedly. A toy found behind a couch, left there from one of his last grand adventures, reminds you that those adventures will never continue. A lonely shoe found under your bed represents footsteps that will never be heard again. A print on a window, a ghostly apparition of a hand never to be held again. The loss does not hit you all at once. It does not flash in front of you in an instant. Instead of an acute pain, the loss of a child is a dull ache that grows with each moment of recognition of the irreparable tears to the fabric of your life. Throughout this time, hope is slowly pealed away, like a scabbed over bandage that is excruciatingly removed, bit by painful bit.
The realization that your little boy will never laugh again, play again, say your name again or cry again all start to combine together forming a void of hopelessness that becomes self sustaining and ever burgeoning. The loss of hope to the void is the embodiment of despair. Like a black hole, this void starts consuming everything in its path. After consuming your hopes and dreams for your child the void looks to sustain its growth by taking away from you every other hope and dream you possess. Things that you once found enjoyable yield to its ever burgeoning maw. Before you know it, all your hopes and dreams find themselves at the edge of the event horizon, poised to take the final plunge into oblivion. I can only speak for myself, but I think every parent who loses a child finds themselves in the position I was in, gaping at the maw and having to make the decision to let it swallow you and end the pain or resist its pull somehow and find a way back…
Ironically, the way back is fueled by the very thing the maw wishes to consume: Hope. It is only when all hope is lost that the void can consume you. As long as there remains even the smallest amount of hope, there exists a lifeline away from gaping maw of utter despair. Hope is exactly what I found. While I lost the hope of a future with Rees in it, I gained the hope in something else fueled by his spirit. I found hope that people can find within themselves the power they have to make this world a better place, as an individual working towards a collective goal of kindness to others. I can now see the vessel of hope that set sail against the backdrop of my void of despair emerging from the darkness. Acts of kindness spread in my son’s name are literally popping up all over the world. Rees’ pieces are themselves finding acts of kindness coming back to them from other Rees’ pieces they have never met. “Drive through” acts of kindness, like the one reported in Newsday on New Years Eve, keep popping up with increasing frequency.
Each of these of these moments, each of these acts, fuels my hope for a better world than the one Rees left more than a year ago. People are beginning to see what random acts of kindness do for BOTH the giver and the receiver. The movement is growing beyond my wildest dreams, which of course only fuels new hopes for the future. I sit here tonight, prepared to make a decision on a Publisher for our Children’s book “A Little Rees Specht Cultivates Kindness”, hoping that the success of the book will allow us to provide scholarships to schools far and wide. I hope that ReesSpecht life becomes synonymous with kindness worldwide. I hope that we continue to make this world a better place, one piece at a time. I hope that my little boy is smiling down on all of us from his seat on his tractor up above. Hope is a good thing. Hope is the best of things. Hope can make this world better for everyone. I hope.