Cleveland: where there is life there is hope

by Rosalind Hughes

Gina DeJesus went missing not long after we moved to Ohio, and her name stayed with me. Every so often over I would hear it used as a marker for loss, a symbol of the decline of our neighborhoods, the unravelling of the fabric of fellowship between those living in the same village, the rifts between us that let people fall between the cracks in the sidewalk and disappear.

I came home to Cleveland on Monday night and heard her name again. Amanda Berry had called 911, and with her were Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus. It was incredible.

It was incredible because no matter what we told ourselves, we had as a city honestly given up hope that they would be found, much less alive, and here they were, astonishing our expectations.

I wrote on Tuesday about the difficulty of this strange good news, coming as it did on a wave of grief for the years lost, a decade of despicable actions; for the lives lost, the innocence destroyed, the pain and heartache suffered, the trust worn away; for the grief for those still waiting to be found.

Those who held on through the decade waiting for this moment of release were not hoping for this: that they had been abused, kept prisoner, that a child had been born and raised in captivity. This was a strange way to fulfill the hope for restoration.

Remember the fairy tales and their happy endings, in which “they all lived happily ever after”? They can only take place on the last page, fixed in place by the hard back cover, because as long as life continues it will continue to be complicated by conflicting joys and sorrows.

“Where there’s life, there’s hope,” goes the saying, paraphrased from the philosophical Ecclesiastes, but hope takes effort and endurance, which is why we so often give it up. Our salvation stories teach us that good news is rarely the same thing as a happy ending; yet where there is life there is hope.

I hope that out of this, a man may recognize the evil in his deeds and repent. I hope that those who turned away will find their eyes opened and their voices raised against cruelty and oppression. I hope that we may find ourselves driven to rebuild our neighborhoods, our communities. I hope that one little girl may grow up stronger than anyone might expect. I hope that where there is life, there is room for healing.

Good news is not the same as a happy ending. While we celebrate what has been found, we cannot restore what was lost. But we can go on living in hope.

Rosalind Hughes is a transatlantic transplant and recently ordained priest serving the Church of the Epiphany, Euclid, Ohio. She blogs at Over the Water.

See Hughes Tuesday reflection below:

I am confused by the good news. It is such bright, good news, overlaid with shards of loss which cast their light, prismed through fractured pieces, across its tear-stained joy:

the loss of innocence

the loss of a mother who never lived to see the day

the loss of little lives

the loss of years, and months, and weeks, and days, and minutes, and countless moments of freedom

the loss of a neighbourhood which will never again let its children out to play in the summer street where shadows gather

the loss of unformed memories

the loss of those unfound.

And yet the colours shine with astonished life, unlooked for redemption. It is, indeed, confusingly good news.

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