“I Wish To Die for That Man.”


The crocuses poking through the last of the snow, the first golden blooms of forsythia, the imminent celebration of new life known as Easter—none of it kept my wife’s close cousin from death a week ago. Cancer overwhelmed Robin Sicoli, just as it had my wife three months ago.


I drove the more than 300 miles from Cape Cod to New Jersey for Robin’s funeral in Berkeley Heights, one of the prettier places in the Garden State.

I was heading west along Route 78 when I saw the first forsythias of the new spring.

And it was in the face of Robin’s passing—following so closely the death of my wife—that I renewed my hope.

I say that “I renewed” my hope, because hope—like faith, like love—is an act of the will.

This was convincingly demonstrated by Reverend Maximilian Kolbe, whom the Catholic Church considers a saint.

Because of his efforts to protect Jewish refugees, Kolbe was targeted by the Nazis, arrested and sent to Auschwitz in 1941.

When one of the prisoners escaped, the guards decided to retaliate by starving 10 of his fellow inmates to death.

One of the men chosen by the guards to die cried out, "My poor wife and children! I will never see them again!"

Kolbe stepped forward.

"I wish to die for that man," he announced.

And he did.

Viktor Frankl, the Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who gained celebrity for the way in which he survived Auschwitz, brought scientific analysis to the idea of hope.

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl points out that people in the horrible circumstances of the Nazi camps reacted in radically different ways. Some killed themselves. Others praised God even as they walked into certain death.

Frankl wrote, "He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how."

Hope has had many definitions through the ages.

Aristotle called hope “the dream of a waking man.” 

The 13th century theologian, Thomas Aquinas, said that faith has to do with things that are not seen, while hope has to do with things that are not at hand.

Gabriel Marcel, who died in 1973, was a French philosopher, playwright and musician. He explained hope this way:

The essence of hope is not “to hope that . . .” but merely “to hope.” The person who hopes does not accept the current situation as final.

Kolbe’s ultimate self-sacrifice and Frankl’s first-hand study underscore the idea that we need a hope that goes further than merely fulfilling career or lifestyle goals.

Hope enables us to truly live.

In all the different definitions of hope, there is a common denominator—and perhaps the best definition: trust in the beyond. 

[Image: One of more than 130 known varieties of “resurrection plants,” a group of flora that can survive extreme water shortages for years.]

Read my newest book, Fat Guy in a Fat Boat, in print or Kindle from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Fat-Guy-Boat-Peter-Yaremko/dp/0990905012/

Also available is my e-book, A Light from Within, about the small moments of our lives that seem commonplace until they are examined under a creative lens.

And my weekly reflection on each Sunday of the Jubilee Year of Mercy can be found at: http://www.peterwyaremko.com/mercy

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