By Liza Gresse

“Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.” – Samuel Smiles

When I was a young girl I once nearly drowned. It was terrifying. Although I was a strong swimmer, I miscalculated the enormity of an approaching wave. I was engulfed by the water mass and I remember the weight of the water pushing me down into the depth of the ocean. I fought and struggled to find my way up through the water towards the light and most importantly the air that could fill my aching lungs. I remember the anxiety as I felt my lungs releasing the bit of air that was still within.

The average person can hold their breath for 30 to 60 seconds, and once you run out of breath under water, your chance for survival is slim.  I was running out of air. I tried to look up to see sunlight, and then suddenly the weight of the water subsided and for some seemingly inexplicable reason (or so it seemed in the moment), I suddenly had a huge burst of energy, and the will to get out of the predicament emerged. Clinging to the hope that I would make it, I at once filled my aching lungs with the gift of air.

COVID-19 is a wave of water pushing the world down and it is easy to drown in despair and fear. In times of darkness we should search for the light and hold on to hope, because HOPE is to the soul what air is to the lungs.

Without hope, the soul dies a slow and painful death.

When people lose hope, they lose their ability to dream for the future. Despair replaces joy. Fear replaces faith. Anxiety replaces peace. Insecurity replaces confidence. Tomorrow’s dreams are replaced by nightmares.

When hope is lost, light dies. When spouses lose hope, they give up on their marriage. When parents lose hope, they give up on their teens. When people lose hope, they give up on their leaders.

Healthy emotions of contentment and peace are replaced with the toxic emotions of confusion, shame, worry, anxiety and disappointment. When you have lost hope, you have lost everything. And when you think all is lost, when all is dire and bleak, there is always hope.

Twenty-nine years ago I gave birth to twins, two months premature. My baby daughter and baby son weighed a mere 1.5 kg and 1.6 kg respectively and their chances of survival were slim. Three days after their birth my precious son passed away. I was devastated. Yet despite the enormity of my loss and sadness, I started focussing on my baby girl. My whole being became focused on the hope of keeping her alive. The challenges of feeding her through a tube, making sure she was warm in order not to lose energy and weight, bathing her small fragile body, holding her for hours on end while sitting in a hospital ward from 5am to 11pm at night…. everything I did was in the spirit of hope. Hope that she would survive and that I would be able to guide her through life as she grew up.

Victor E. Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning and concentration camp survivor quotes Frederick Nietzsche: “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”

Liza and her daughter today.

Today my daughter is a beautiful strong young woman, a lawyer and a light to all who meet her and a great blessing to her family. My “WHY” gave me the strength, the resilience and the motivation not to give up in those long days of uncertainty. Keeping the HOPE alive that all will be okay in the end. Hope is living in the possibility that all will work out well.

“Hope is the magic elixirs that energises dreams, fuels possibilities, and lets you live beyond the limits of your historical thinking. It is not a promise that something you want will happen — it is an invitation to enjoy the possibility of what you want while you and life negotiate the eventual outcome. There is never a good reason not to hope!”  – Michael Neill

With hope the impossible starts to look possible. Courage replaces fear, and strength chases away powerlessness. During COVID 19 pandemic let’s keep the hope and focus on a positive mindset. Hal Lindsey said: “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without airbut only for one second without hope.”

Our beautiful country is currently going through tough times and we have to remind each other daily to not lose hope. In the times that we are living we need hope-givers more than ever before.  As South Africans we need to speak of hope and possibilities and then we need to get up and make it work.

“Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronisingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.”  – Nelson Mandela

I am reminded of the words of Desmond Tutu: “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

During this world pandemic, let us choose to be the light in order to kill the darkness.

Let us start breathing hope and start living in the possibility of a great future, because this too shall pass.