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Hope. A strategy for surviving, living and loving.

Hope. A strategy for surviving, living and loving.

Hope. A strategy for surviving, living and loving.







“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul .And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Emily Dickinson

What is it about the song of that Bird or any bird for that matter that still sings after storms that can through wind and water change the basic landscape we exist on?

Where does hope come from? What is the nature of it? What about human nature allows hope even in the darkest of circumstances? Can hope be mobilized?  Where in the ebbs and flows of even extreme situations does it germinate?

15 years ago, we were the 16th couple and Riley was the 16th in utero surgery operation at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Hospital of University of Pennsylvania. We were scared, we had just received the diagnosis of spina bifida and I had a vague notion of what that meant and had no way to reconcile that with the current reality of my life, busy, active and fast paced.  We received  the In utero info from our doc that diagnosed her via ultrasound, a moment where time stopped completely, at least the blood flow in my veins did.

So, less than a week after diagnosis, we were headed to Philly, without an income, separated from my son Johnny who thankfully was embraced by my sister Kelly and her family.  4 months. Our cell phone carrier didn’t have coverage there (remember those days!). No laptops or Facebook. It was terrifying, but we had hope. Hope that we could give our daughter a leg up, namely preventing Chiari malformation (hindbrain hernia) from seriously impairing her quality of life. We had hope and faith that despite no income for four plus months, we would manage.

This could be a book and maybe some day…..the surgery occurred at 22 weeks in utero. My water broke 4 days post op. No one knew what to do with me except tons of anti contraction meds and complete hospitalized bedrest. I learned more about myself than I cared to with almost two months of bedpan bedrest with almost constant contractions  and fear. But what else was there? Hope. Every single day I was able to keep her inside me growing, I had hope. Hope she would survive and thrive. I had hope that existed in the eyes of my husband who had already endured the enormous loss of one child. I had hope that I wouldn’t always exist in one room with no control over anything except my own emotions.

Riley came a bit early, 29 weeks and I told the nurse at 3:15 something was wrong and at 3:30 I was getting an epidural after begging the anesthesiologist not to put me under. The CHOP team told me I would not hear or see my baby as she was so early and they needed to tend to her. They reassured me they would be on top of things. My doula, Lori the Doula arrived.  My husband arrived just in time to see my pancreas.

When Riley emerged, April 14 ….. All I could do was look at the faces surrounding me. They were all smiling!  I heard a noise that sounded like a mouse squeak! It was my beautiful 3 lb fighter working her tiny lungs to try and cry. It was the most beautiful sound I have ever heard in my life. The sound of hope. 2 more months in the NICU maintaining weight with the effort of nursing. Weaning off oxygen. My girl is the picture of Hope. All of her surgeries, facing fear and pain, learning to walk again and again.

I have learned and am continuing to learn that opening your heart during the darkest of times shines a light. That the boundless love and compassion and Grace and Wisdom of God are beyond my ability to understand. That Hope is a strategy that can move us forward even in seemingly dire straits where we don’t know the outcome but we sure as hell with an open heart guided by Grace will move forward. That joy and pain can be present together. This is the world we live in. Being in the world but not of the world. Having enough hope to live and love freely and fiercely. Hope. It is a noun and a verb. You have to love that!

noun: hope; plural noun: hopes
a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
synonyms: aspiration, desire, wish, expectation, ambition, aim, goal, plan, desi
a person or thing that may help or save someone.
“their only hope is surgery”
grounds for believing that something good may happen.
“he does see some hope for the future”
synonyms: hopefulness, optimism, expectation, expectancy; More
antonyms: pessimism
a feeling of trust.
verb: hope; 3rd person present: hopes; past tense: hoped; past participle: hoped; gerund or present participle: hoping
want something to happen or be the case.
“he’s hoping for an offer of compensation”
synonyms: expect, anticipate, look for, be hopeful of, pin one’s hopes on, want; More
intend if possible to do something.
“we’re hoping to address all these issues”
synonyms: aim, intend, be looking, have the intention, have in mind, plan, aspire
“we’re hoping to address the issue”



Rachel Allen

Rachel Allen, B.A. Political Science/Sociology, is a Certified Music Practitioner, Sound Healer, Reiki Master, and Registered Yoga Teacher with a trauma informed/social justice framework. She has 20 years experience of working with some of the most amazing people on the planet; hospice patients and their families, patients in a variety of health conditions, survivors of sexual abuse, adults with mental illness and most recently, incarcerated women. Rachel is also passionate about supporting and working with caregivers to reduce burnout and compassion fatigue. Locally, Rachel teaches Creative Movement at Saint Francis University in Loretto, PA. Regionally and nationally, she teaches and presents at conferences and retreats, weaving live music, yoga, and creative movement into themes of compassion, self acceptance, and transformation. Rachel is committed to engaging people from all walks of life in the healing arts to create healthy, diverse, and joyful communities.