The Hope Chest

 In Inspirational

Up until the mid-1950’s, it was a tradition for a young, single girl to keep a “Hope Chest” in anticipation of married life. The collection of a trousseau was a coming-of-age ritual, especially in the Midwest and the South. Colorful hand-stitched quilts, finely crocheted doilies, tarnished silver lockets with black and white family photos, or delicate porcelain figurines were typical treasures tucked away in a cedar chest. Each one had a story and they were indexed into the first chapter of the young lady’s life. When the time came, she would carry them to her new home and another layer of value would be added like a fresh coat of gild. Maybe those same things would find themselves carefully packed up years later in the next generation’s memory box.

As old fashioned as I am, I did not have a “Hope Chest”. Although I transported some personal treasures from my childhood home to my first home in Pennsylvania when I got married. I refinished my parent’s original bedroom and dining room furniture, beautiful blonde Danish modern Heywood-Wakefield sets. I took the antique Victrola that had provided me with hours of fun in our barn when I was pretending to be a Rockette. These memorable items anchored me to my past while allowing me to slowly drift off to my future.

But in our fast-paced modern world, photos are stored on smart phones rather than arranged in leather bound albums. Leisure time to hand-stitch bed coverings is endangered by extended work hours, long solitary commutes, and evening Zumba classes. All of these activities compete for the precious 24 hours that each one of us is allotted. And so, a trip to Pottery Barn supplies us with foreign made, machine stitched duvets. Modern colorful Fiestaware from Macy’s becomes the new porcelain and picture lockets are difficult pieces of jewelry to find.

So what provides “the hope”? Where are the threads that knit together one generation to another? What are the remembrances of home and family that document the first part of our life?  Do you have a tangible item that gives you comfort and triggers a warm nostalgic feeling that can carry you through a tough time and gives you a feeling of hope?  Remember, we don’t just need hope when we start a new journey; we also need it when the road gets bumpy. We are all going to face challenges in life. It is inevitable. Some more than others. We all need hope.

“Hope is the feeling that the feeling
you have isn’t permanent.” (Jean Kerr)

Hope gives us a sense of comfort. It allows us to exhale after holding our breath in a time of crisis. It is not the answer to the inexplicable. It is not a specific promise. Hope is a life raft that gives us a chance to come back up to the surface and to stay afloat. It is a positive force that pushes us forward.

“Hope is like peace. It is not a gift
from God. It is a gift only we can give one another.” (Elie Wiesel)

Whenever I address a group, I try and connect our hearts with a feeling of hope. I do not profess to be an expert in the field of grief; I just was lucky enough to pass through that stage of my life and came through with a sense of peace and understanding. Audience members do not come to hear an intellectual breakdown of the process. They come for an opportunity to share and to feel validated. No one wants to feel alone. We all need to help one another.

Never deprive someone of hope; it might be
all they have.”(H. Jackson Jr.)

At the 1988 Democratic National Convention, Jesse Jackson kept repeating “Keep hope alive…keep hope alive…”  We all need to keep hope alive in all aspects of our lives. It is an important emotion that will get us through the tough times and helps us to believe in the advent of the good times.

What would you put in your “Hope Chest”? What artifacts represent today’s hope and tomorrow’s security for you?

Write and let me know…I would love to hear from you!





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  • Melissa Swarr

    Sometimes hope is one of the only things that keep us going. It’s so important to foster hope and hang onto it — not only in grief situations, but other challenges in our lives also. It’s good to see things in perspective this way. Great post!

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