A Letter of Hope

Dear Reader,

My disease was cured by living an out-door life, and I was again able for some years to devote myself to my mother and to church work. As a clergyman’s son I had many calls on my strength, so that the doctor often said, “How do you stand it?” I could only answer, “It is not I.” However, after much sickness in the family lasting for years, with many other things, I broke down again; this time not composed as well as with renewed symptoms of consumption. My wise doctor sent me to the mountains, where on a cot bed I simply existed. Each pleasant day for weeks my cot was carried out into a grove near the house, and on rainy days to a tent, and conscious or unconscious, I lay there. One incident I must tell you. I heard through my stupor of exhaustion the doctor ask the nurse, “Do you not see any change in her all these weeks?” “None,” she replied, “the hemorrhages are as severe, as he can seldom take nourishment than the white of eggs and malted milk, and he lies most of the time in this exhausted semi-conscious state.” Their voices sounded far away, but the doctor, stooping suddenly down to feel in the grass as if he had lost something, roused me slightly. He handed the nurse the broadest, strongest blade of grass to be found; she looked at him surprised. “A nice blade of grass?” the doctor said; “you have been here all summer sitting by the side of Mr.— didn’t you see this grass grow?” “No,” she replied. “But it grew?” said he. After a silence, he merely added, “Keep on with the same medicine and treatment,” and was gone. The nurse stood holding the blade of grass some minutes; then dropped it and went about her duties. You may not believe it, but that nurse was a different and more hopeful and helpful nurse from that time, for myself I know from that moment I began to get well.

Over and over in my mind that day went the words, “but it grew.” Then slowly, I asked myself, “how?” Why, it simply drank in the sunshine and rain; it did not mind being beaten down to the ground by the storm yesterday, and slowly “I will” was born again in my mind. “I too will grow strong and well.” You perhaps will say this was treatment by suggestion. It was, but may I add also the thought that sometimes the vital strength of the patient is so low that he must be treated through those around him. I think it is too little realized how much the sick absorb, unconsciously, or I should say sub-consciously, of the state of mind of those around them. Often those caring for the sick do not realize themselves the doubts of recovery in their own mind, and think present a hopeful and cheerful countenance to the patient, which is in reality only a forced one and the patient feels that it is unnatural.

E. Worcester 1908

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