On March 7th, Mr Liu Qiang, 40, took a bus from Singapore, where he had worked for the last four years, to Kuala Lumpur to take a flight to Beijing, then a train to his hometown in Shangdong province. This year, he did not return home for Chinese New Year. He stayed back in Singapore to earn extra in overtime pay. He was flying from Kuala Lumpur because it is cheaper than flying from Singapore to Beijing. His wife Madam Nan Kaifen, 40, waited for him at a Jining train station. “I waited all night, and now I’m still waiting,” Madam Nan said on Day 12 of her ordeal. On the first day, there was a ring-tone when she dialled his mobile number repeatedly. On Day 11, she joined a hunger strike but abandoned it the day after. Her two children still thought their father was in Malaysia. Mr Liu’s father said, “He must come back to stay in this new house that he built,” referring to the newly renovated house paid for by his wages earned in Singapore. Asked on Day 13 if she thought her husband was alive, Madam Nan simply replied, “I have hope.”
While I am writing this article, relatives of passengers on the missing plane were told of its fate after 17 days. The media said at last there was ‘closure for those living on hope’ although many questions remained. In the past weeks, seeing images of loved ones waiting in hotels, I pondered over this thing called hope. We all know of a time when hope is the only thing we can hold on to. Some people refuse to hope because it means risking huge disappointment and hence immense pain. Some people stay hopeful despite themselves, going with the flow of their emotions. And then there are some people who consciously choose to believe, to wish and to hope. What do we think of these people? Have they lost touch with reality? Or are they the personification of what hope really is? A mindful determination, a resolve and courage to ask for something against the odds. Having faith, religious or otherwise.
A clinical professor of orthopaedic surgery wrote in Time Magazine how his cancer patient with barely any brain left, woke up to say good bye to his wife and three kids for five minutes. What woke this patient was simply his mind, forcing its way through a broken brian, a father’s final act to comfort his family. The mind is a uniquely personal domain of thoughts, dreams, and countless other things, like will, faith and hope. These fine things are as real as rocks and water but, like the mind, weightless and invisible, maybe even timeless. Material science shies from these things. An article in the New York Times told of a patient with metastatic cancer who was in consistent and extreme pain. Her daughter’s wedding was arranged in the ICU so that she could be a part of it. For the entire day of the wedding, nurses and doctors were amazed she did not need any pain medication. After the wedding, her life was prolonged.
I am not sure if hopeful people are born or made. But I love them. I seek them out. To be with them. Because they are behind the magnificence of the world we live in. Because being hopeful is being brave. To have hope is to be strong. It is more than being positive, or being optimistic. Most times, it is something bigger than oneself, extending beyond personal wants and needs, involving the interests and well being of loved ones, or a bigger cause. Every time I see someone hoping when others have given up hope, hoping in the face of hopelessness, I feel a connection. I understand. Not fully. But I know how it must feel. It can be lonely. With a tint of despair. Today I am thinking hard about hope because I realise it plays a big part in my life. Past and present. Hopefully the future as well…
‘Looking at a fresh leaf growing, I am filled with hope. For I am seeing the miracle of life. If this leaf can grow, anything is possible.’