Pennie Hunt: Hope Comes In A Jar

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By Pennie Hunt, guest columnist

My parents were giddy. They couldn’t wait until breakfast was over. 

Mom opened a small, plastic black jar, carefully measured a spoonful of power and watched it trickle into a glass. Smiling, she added cool water and stirred until it was dissolved. 

She handed the glass to Dad, and he slowly sipped down the precious mixture.

I watched the ritual as a speechless observer, fascinated at how involved my parents were in the process. 

When the glass was empty, I asked what the drink was. 

Dad was in the final stages of a terminal illness: idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. He spent his time sitting in a sheepskin-lined recliner and tethered to oxygen tubes. 

For several months I visited as often as I could in an effort to help Mom care for him and soak up as much time with Dad as possible.

I knew the routine. I knew how to help him to the bathroom, how to do sponge baths, how to check his oxygen levels, how to give him medication and how to make his oatmeal for breakfast. 

This black jar of powder was new.

They were more than eager to tell me about it. A man had come to their retirement community with a van full of black jars. Over free coffee and pie, he presented to a group in the community hall. He talked about the power of the powder in the jar, the vitamins, the minerals and the magic it held. 

Since my parents were confined at home to stay close to the oxygen, they were unable to attend, so the kind man came to them and gave them a personal demonstration.

They happily bought several jars at the discounted rate of $125 each. They believed it was going to bring strength and health back to Dad. They were convinced it was the answer to their prayers.

Being skeptical, I picked up the jar to read the ingredients. The first ingredient was sugar. I dipped my finger into the jar and licked off the powder. It tasted like pure sugar. I pointed this out to Mom and reminded her that giving Dad a glass full of sugar water twice a day was not good for his diabetes.

That evening, the hospice doctor stopped by as he often did on his way home from work. He chatted with my parents, took Dad’s vitals, adjusted the oxygen and headed out the door. I quickly grabbed the black jar and followed him to his car.

I explained the situation and handed the jar to him for an expert opinion. 

As he read the label I blubbered nonstop about the amount of sugar and how could this possibly be good for Dad. There didn’t seem to be anything in the jar that could be beneficial, and I was sure that it was pure sugar. I was certain it was a sham, a pyramid scheme, a modern-day version of snake oil.

The doctor calmly listened and when I stopped, he said, “I think you are correct. I believe there is only one ingredient in this jar.”

I leaned in feeling very smug that I was right.

He continued: “The only ingredient in this jar that will help your dad is hope. We have passed the point of worrying about a little sugar. If this powder gives him hope that he will be here tomorrow, hope that he may feel better and hope that it might be a cure, then it is worth every cent they paid for it.”

He put the jar back in my hand, gave me a smile, hugged me and left.

I stood in the driveway holding the jar that had suddenly transformed from a jar of sugar into a precious jar of powerful medicine. 

The salesman had told my parents the truth. The jar did hold magic. In that moment I realized that Dad would be leaving soon and in my hand was the only thing he needed: A black plastic jar that held hope.

Pennie’s Life Lesson: We all need hope to lift our spirits and lighten our hearts. How it’s delivered to us does not matter.

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