A Glimmer of Hope

This article won a 2020 Catholic Media Award from the Catholic Press Association.


Do you know what it’s like to feel hopeless? I sure do. It’s happened on many occasions, but one incident stands out for me. It took place 22 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. My wife and I were sitting in the office of a high-risk OBGYN, waiting for him to come in and meet with us. Several weeks earlier we were informed that the twin girls Eileen was carrying only had a 10 percent chance of being born alive. The news was especially devastating due to the fact that we had struggled with infertility and this was our first pregnancy.

For several weeks prior to this, we had visited the high-risk perinatal clinic twice a week and listened to an assortment of doctors tell us that our daughters would probably die very soon. To say we were beaten down and discouraged would be an understatement.

This particular day was especially difficult because of the fact that we would be seeing the doctor who initially delivered the bad news. His stone-faced expression and somber demeanor was etched in our minds, and we were in no hurry to see him again. Even though nobody was giving us much hope, some of the doctors had a softer approach and made us feel a little better about the situation.

As we waited for what seemed like an eternity, we braced ourselves for what we were about to hear. The hundreds of prayers we were receiving helped us to feel some degree of peace from time to time, but this was not one of those times.

Based on past experience, we knew that we would not be receiving a sugar-coated message. Rather, we were going to get cold, hard facts. Finally, the door opened and in walked the doctor. We thought we were ready, but nothing could have prepared us for the words that were about to come out of his mouth.

He asked how we were doing, and we told him that we’d been praying and taking it one day at a time. Much to our delight, he informed us that the latest ultrasound indicated that the girls were still alive.This allowed us to breathe a momentary sigh of relief and send up a silent prayer of thanksgiving. Then he followed up with two pieces of information that we didn’t see coming.

First, he let us know that he was praying for us. Because of his matter-of-fact style, we had assumed that he was cold and uncaring. We now knew that we had been wrong.

Second, he suggested that we tour the hospital’s intensive care nursery and begin to think about the “endpoint.” Eileen and I were incredulous. Was he actually suggesting that the girls might survive?

Elizabeth and Mary Zimak n 2018. In the inset photo, Mary (left) and Elizabeth (right) Zimak at age 2 months. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF GARY ZIMAK

After making sure we understood correctly, a phone call was made and the tour was arranged. In a matter of minutes, we were speaking with doctors and nurses who cared for premature babies. Instead of being coached on how to deal with the death of our twins, we were now being informed of how they would be cared for when they entered the world. We knew we had a long road ahead of us, but for the first time since the beginning of this process we had hope. It was a great feeling.

The next few weeks were difficult, but the message from the doctors was becoming more positive. By the grace of God, we were beating the odds. Eventually, the big day arrived. Despite the fact that it was three months early, the doctors decided that it was time for Mary and Elizabeth Zimak to be delivered.

The weeks, months, and years that followed were challenging, but we survived. With the exception of some minor health issues, the girls are healthy young adults today. As I look back, I realize that the turning point occurred that day in the doctor’s office. We went from hopeless to hopeful in a matter of minutes. Even though Eileen and I knew that we weren’t out of the woods, we were able to see the possibility that the girls could be born alive. That faint glimmer of hope was enough to sustain us.


Advent is a season of hopeful expectation. Not only do we anticipate the second coming of Christ when he comes again in glory, but we prepare to welcome him more deeply into our lives now. Jesus wants us to turn to him so he can help us with our problems and restore our hope.

And, unlike the hope that is expressed by crossing your fingers and wishing for the best, Christian hope is based on certainty. When you cry out to Jesus, he will answer. It might take sometime, but you can be confident that your prayer will be heard and answered in the best possible way when the time is right.

Eileen and I were beaten down and hopeless when we entered the doctor’s office, but we left feeling hopeful. You may be feeling hopeless right now, but your feelings aren’t facts. With Jesus, there is no such thing as a hopeless situation. Let him know what you need and then get ready to welcome him.

It’s not a matter of if he’ll show up; it’s just a matter of when!


Editor’s note: This article won a 2020 Catholic Media Award: 2nd Place, Best Guest Column/Commentary. Read more here and here.

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