We sat in a room looking through windows onto a therapy arena. We were sons, grandchildren, husbands and wives. The lively conversation was unforcedly upbeat. Our relatives had experienced strokes, falls, assorted surgeries; only days before, many had feared mortality. All were newly reminded of the stubborn resiliance of life.

I flew to Florida after my mother had a third stroke. My stepfather was beside himself as the prognosis got worse and worse. When I arrived, I could see why he’d been worried. She was transferred to an acute rehabilitation hopsital. The environmental difference was striking: quiet instead of constant beep and bustle; responsive staff, resolutely positive.

Less than a year ago, my mother worked part time and could perform all the tasks most of us take for granted. Now, even basic mobility is a struggle. Her challenge is to regain independence. Attitude is everything in rehab, but depression, so common after a stroke, will be a fierce opponent.

In our watching room, we shared stories and discussed strategies. Unlike the grim isolation of the stroke unit, we were comrades in this place. All agreed the facility is wonderful – three hours of therapy every day, with short- and long-term goals clearly understood. When a patient falters and says “I can’t,” the answer is “We don’t use that word here. Try.” More often than not, it works. Most of the patients smile – they are engaged and working in community. They wave at us across the room.

I don’t like hospitals (who does?) The rehab hospital feels different – the atmosphere of waiting and illness is replaced by activity and health. The patients we cheer for are as sick as any I’ve seen, but they reclaim their health before our eyes. The stubborn resiliance of life.