After her stroke, May Sarton, journal writer, poet, novelist, and lover of solitude, struggled to accept her dependence on others. She gave up much of what she loved, saw many of her friends become ill and die. Finally she wrote, “Hope dies last.”
Hope dies last. Could this be a clue to my mother’s constant search for a cure for old age? Because that is what she wants, though she would rationally deny it. She doesn’t want a drug or surgery or physical therapy cure for individual ailments－though the ailments are what takes her to the specialists－she wants to not be old. And she tenaciously holds out hope that someone or something can save her.
Mama can’t see to read much or work on projects; precarious footing keeps her from going outside without an arm to hold; it is too bright outside to work long in the garden, and she can’t see the weeds and she gets tired. She has long been dependent on others to drive her places (and she loathes “bothering” people to ask them for companionship). It has become hard for her to write letters with her low vision and suddenly (just in the months since I arrived) shaky handwriting, and she hates the errors her manual typewriter has started making. She no longer goes to church because she can’t hear, or it’s too loud. She is frustrated with trying to reach out over the phone because it is hard for her to hear and to make the elderly friend or relative on the other end hear her. Another of my father’s former co-workers died this week, she called the widow yesterday. And they keep dying, and she keeps living with less and less reason to.
What she has left is hope that if she goes to her PCP one more time to talk about her stomach discomfort the doctor will have a new idea, one with no side-effects. Maybe one more trip to the ENT will result in a magical return of some of her hearing. Perhaps this time the glaucoma or the macular degeneration specialist will find something new that can return her vision.
What if she just gave up and gave in to this is how it is going to be, until it gets even worse (as it does by the day)? What if she gave up hope? Then what would she have?