May 16, 2020

What I’m learning about Hope from my 85-year-old Mom during COVID-19.

John Merryfield

Check out Elephant’s Continually-updating Coronavirus Diary. ~ Waylon


I phone my mother every day, in the evenings.

She’s 85.

She tells me about all the events of her day. Every conversation starts the same way.

“I’m having such a great day today,” she says. She lives alone, in a happy, little, yellow mobile home, in Humboldt County, Northern California—where if it’s not raining, it’s getting ready to rain.

She is considered to be amongst the populations’ most vulnerable to the COVID-19 illness—in theory. After all, she’s 85 years old. Yet, she is spry, in optimal health, vegan, does yoga and line dancing, where she is referred to by her nickname, “Smiley.” She’s also on the board of her Unity church. She visits “the old people,” as she would say, in the nursing home—delivering soy Frappuccinos, and bright sunshine in the form of her happy, wrinkled face.

Even before this pandemic I would call her every day. On many of those days, I would have to leave a voice message because she was too busy to answer the phone—because of her full, delightful, social life. Christ, she doesn’t even have cable TV because she’s never home to watch it.

However, for the past two months she’s been quarantined in her home, isolated from the abundant life she’s made for herself in order to stay safe from the illness. Yet, day after day, she’s having another great day. And when she claims to be having “a wonderful day,”she means it. She’s not faking it.

She is the poster girl for a “positive mental attitude.” Her feet are so happy she zigzags through the neighborhood on her daily 45-minute walks—crossing from one side of the street to the other. Why? Because she’s singing “Guantanamera,” the Spanish language song from Cuba.

And she wants to wave hello to her neighbors. Not just a few of her neighbors, but all of her neighbors, on both sides of the street. Her Spanish accent as she sings is not Mexican, nor Cuban—it’s old-school Castellano. You might have heard the song before. And if you live in Humboldt, you’ve probably even heard her sing it—


Guajira Guantanamera


Guajira Guantanamera

I share with you the beautiful qualities of my mother and her life, because not everyone is like her. Not everyone can hold the immensity of our cruel world in the palms of their hands so delicately. Not everyone can transform those negative potentials around them, and release them with a prayer—as if releasing a new butterfly to the vast, blue sky.

Maybe you’re one of those other people, like me, who experience more darkness. Maybe you’re more afflicted by the world’s pain, and you teeter from hope to despair, hope to despair. I am reminded of Thich Nhat Hahn describing how he would wake up in the morning to the feeling of fear every day. It would be the first thing to welcome him to the new day. He would say, “Oh hello again fear, my little friend.”

So here we are. We are who we are.

Not all of us sing “Guantanmera” through the neighborhoods during a global pandemic.

If you’re feeling down and you need to hear a voice of positivity, think of my mother, or think of your mother, or think of your friend. Someone. Think of that person who has hope. They exist. Hope is there in the form of someone else. Borrow their hope, even just for a day.

Since I got clean and sober, I’ve been on a spiritual path. I seek hope. I look for it when I’m in melancholy. If I don’t have hope, I find someone who does have it. For me, dogs are always a good source to locate hope. Cats, on the other hand, I’m not so sure about. Sorry cats. I just generalized and stereotyped all of you with one stroke of the pen. My apologies.

Well anyway, we were talking about hope. As the saying in recovery goes:“I used to be a hopeless dope fiend. Now, I’m a dope-less hope fiend.”

I look for hope.



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