Hope against expectation

12:00:00 AM

My mother has been gone for a couple of years now. It’s funny how, during the wake and the funeral, I got rave reviews from friends, family, and colleagues for being so ‘together.’ And yet today, I find my small, Asian eyes spontaneously welling up with tears. It’s not that I haven’t accepted that she’s dead - I have. I just miss her, that’s all. Thank God for photos.

Saudi Arabia
Kuya's grade school graduation
I held her hand as she lay atop the operating table; the surgeon extracted a tissue sample from her neck for the biopsy as he explained to me and my very conscious mother that the test results will tell us if she has cancer or not. I’m not trying to pull a La Toya Jackson Psychic Network on you, but during that operation, I already knew it was cancer and that she wasn’t going to make it.

So I prepared myself for the worst. The biopsy marked the beginning of a gruelling five-month battle with the Big C. I was tested in ways more than one, and I had to muster every bit of strength to live normally - I woke up every morning and showed up for work as if nothing’s the matter - despite the fear of the inevitable shadowing me constantly. It took a lot to put on a brave face, especially for my mom.

At a very young age, I have taught myself to accept things I cannot change. I knew she was going to die, and I have accepted that there really wasn’t anything I can do. But until that fateful day that she rejoined her Maker, I indulged myself with one vice: hope. (Until that time, I had no idea how literal the expression ‘hoping against hope’ could be.)
There is always hope, even in graffiti
(photo from the internet)
Philosophy classes during my college days taught me a thing or two about hope. The Architect of the Matrix Trilogy said that hope is the quintessential human emotion, simultaneously the source of our greatest strength and our greatest weakness. Again, I apologize for the irreverence to the Wachowski Brothers (and to Friedrich Nietzsche, as well), but I don’t quite agree with their pessimistic school of thought.

If I were to rephrase the Architect’s quote, it would turn out to be: hope is the source of our greatest strength, while expectation is the source of our greatest weakness. Although I knew she was dying, I dared to hope that by some divine intervention, her life would be spared. I hoped she would live, but I did not let myself expect she would.

Hope differs from expectation in this way: If what you desire does not come true, hope will leave you okay, whereas expectation will break you. Hope is the belief in the best, whether it is what you want or not. Expectation is imposing your will upon the universe. As such, the positivity of hope becomes the true source of your greatest strength.


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