Choose Something Like A Star: Finding Hope Amidst Darkness

“…Not even stooping from its sphere,

It asks a little of us here.

It asks of us a certain height,

So when at times the mob is swayed

To carry praise or blame too far,

We may choose something like a star

To stay our minds on and be staid.”

~From Choose Something Like a Star, Robert Frost

[I Found a Childhood Poem & It Taught Me Something Profound]

I must admit, I was at first a Harry Potter skeptic. But my teenage daughter’s exhortations left me defenseless. Picking up the first book of the series, I was hooked with “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

The story is rich and brilliantly told, marbled with the struggle for truth and light. Characters come home to live with the reader, thereafter to remain in one’s circle of relationships.

Film versions of such complex works of fiction often make up for what they lack in character and plot development by creating poignant passages of cinematography which focus salient themes with startling clarity.

One such passage comes from the sixth installment of the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (spoiler alert!). As it happens, the story’s kind, strong, wise grandfatherly figure, Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore, has just been tragically killed. After death, Dumbledore, trusted champion of the good and Harry’s greatest ally, falls from a tower to the courtyard of Hogwarts School. His body is immediately thronged by students and faculty who’ve been struck breathless at their world’s apparent collapse beneath the mark of the Dark Lord, Voldemort, brooding with a terrible grin across the sky.

[3 Lessons About Overcoming Grief and Finding Hope I Learned From My Mother]

It is one of the saddest movie scenes in recent memory. Hope seems extinguished.

Then, against that grim backdrop, as if drawn by the absence of light like a firefly on a summer evening, the singular glowing wand tip of Professor Minerva McGonagall is thrust to the skies, a bright pinpoint set afloat on a sea of darkness.

And others soon follow. In short order, the light from all the glowing wand tips obscures the sky-set mark of the Dark Lord’s face, and spirits again surge to the pulsing truth in those hands stretched upwards into the night.

Hope has a way of doing that; of raising its star on the face of the void. And everything worth living for seems to hang there, on that single focal point of light, beaming out in taciturn defiance of all that’s broken in the universe.

“choose something like a star…”

[Hope Is a Good Breakfast–3 Tools to Help You Through Hard Times]

In the world of dementia and Alzheimer’s, the darkness, at times, is overwhelming. It literally takes your breath. The losses can be crushing, both for those with the condition themselves and for their caregivers, family members and friends.

I can’t fathom how primary caregivers must feel after they have done their best to selflessly love, only to be berated or attacked verbally or physically by a person with dementia who is no longer able to calm the fearful beast within. “How could he do this to me?” You know it’s not him. But that doesn’t help the hurting.

And the blank stare. The unknowing eyes that fail to send back any warmth of recognition – any reciprocal relationship.

Some days, the weight of death hangs heavily over your world. You just want to wash away reality in an endless flow of tears.

And how must it be for those with the disease? Even our deepest empathy as family, friends and caregivers can’t completely tell that tale.

[Showing Up Sooner: A Lesson for Supporting Caregivers]

There is, as yet, no cure.

Given all of this, people ask me from time to time how I can share a message of hope with caregivers. Some have been frustrated with any assertion that joy can be found in the journey itself. And I can understand their sentiment, because I have been there.

It is counterintuitive. But in my experience, the light of hope is always there, burning in the most unlikely of places, in the darkest of spaces, and in the loneliest of corners. In fact, I believe it is often hidden away in the scars of the broken, within the very ones who are carrying the disability or disease.

Simone Campbell, author of A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community, describes how that which causes us to weep can liberate the transforming fire of hope within us.

This is beautifully illustrated in the Harry Potter scene described above. Harry, in deep grief, touches the lifeless face of his beloved Dumbledore, and the light from McGonagall’s wand is then upraised to kindle that of others.

[Read Maria Shriver’s latest ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essay]

But the torch, an inextinguishable flame of hope and triumph to carry on the next leg of life’s great race, was first symbolically passed from Dumbledore to Harry when their spirits touched.

Timothy Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics and author of Fully Alive: Discovering What Matters Most, presents the picture of eleven-year old athlete Adjara Sylla raising her victorious hands after competing in an event in 2007. Inspection of the picture reveals her disability and her seventh place finish, both of which are overshadowed by the courage and inner light shining forth from those triumphant, outstretched arms.

And she passes the torch to us.

But we have to confront the darkness, touch the pain and weep for the light to show itself. Then we have to have the courage to pass it on to others.

We must “choose something like a star.”

The running of life’s race depends on it.


{Image credit: Pixabay}


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