Recently a friend remarked, "I'm glad you can laugh! We need to laugh!"
Agreed! I grew up in a family where we laughed a lot. Considering we were eight children plus two parents in small parsonages, it was probably our way of coping with too much togetherness. Laughter and laughing are a part of me.
My late husband, John, had a wonderful sense of humor. We loved each other deeply and loved laughing about ourselves, especially when we were together speaking somewhere. Knowing the sadness and concerns in the lives of those we were serving, we believed we could best share His love by caring and being ourselves. Laughter was a big part of our lives.
After his death, I felt such grief and sadness it seemed unlikely I could ever laugh again. It was difficult to share my deep personal feelings with anyone else. Love and prayerful support from family, the Church of the Nazarene, and friends around the world have been incredible. I am thankful for every card, gift, act of kindness, E-mail, and memory shared. I'm also grateful for those who understand my need to laugh.
Now, many months later, I realize the love of my life for more than 50 years isn't coming back. The house is empty! I miss his smile and the way he laughed at my admittedly weird sense of humor. Each "special" day brings a flood of poignant memories.
Anyone who sustains a loss - be it a spouse, parent, child, sibling, close friend, or even a job - now belongs to a large society of persons: the grieving. We wonder if we could have done anything to prevent the loss. My grief has made me aware of others' grief and more understanding of their feelings of loss. But, I must keep living.
For me, one need is laughter. It isn't a giddy denial, but an expression of indwelling joy. Last fall the Holy Spirit reminded me that I am still living. Then William Greathouse, a long-time friend, E-mailed, "I hope you will allow yourself to live again." Interesting how God speaks to us and at the same time to those who are important in our lives.
But laugh? How? Sometimes God seems far away. The enormity of daily living is overwhelming. I am quieter than normal -- maybe that's a good thing. Still, He wants us to "rejoice and be glad" (Revelation 19:7). One person wrote, "We grieve the same way we live." Though the pain isn't gone, my faith in God provides the needed strength to live.
A myriad of "how-to" suggestions have been offered, but some things are clear.
1) Each loss is unique. Each of us must deal with it in our own way, in a time frame we can't control. Anything can trigger tears at any time.
2) Even in loss, we can give thanks. Our losses are too intense to laugh at, but God understands our grief. Now I start my day expressing thanks to God for what is left - His faithfulness, my life, family, church, and friends. Paul, writing from prison, had every reason to be depressed, yet admonished, "give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (I Thessalonians 5:18).
3) Others also grieve. My loss was also a great loss to our children, their families, and John's brothers. Each day some friend suffers a loss. One morning, upon waking, I prayed for God to comfort a friend who had lost a loved one the previous day, in addition to other needs of friends. Later I realized that while praying for others, I had forgotten myself and my grief, if only for a time. That was a good beginning.
4) Children can brighten our hearts. Some elder care homes have children visit to cheer the lives of residents. Children are fun and our hearts respond to them. They usually tell it the way they see it. When asked by a little friend, "Why is your Papaw dead?" my grandson, then age three, responded, "Because he didn't eat his vegetables!"
Some month's after John's death, I was invited to the home of friends on the beautiful Pacific coast. Then two other friends invited me on a trip to Italy. They became "laugh-a-lot" times. I will never forget the experiences or the sharing, laughing, and knowledge that the invitations came because these friends loved me! So, if laughter helps us deal with our grief, let's embrace it.
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time for be born and a time to die . . . a time to weep and a time to laugh" (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2a, 4a). The time to laugh speaks to me. I'll weep when alone.
We who grieve will never forget who or what we've lost, but we can be thankful that in His providence God has allowed our lives to continue. God's gifts include memories, mending, and peace. The sun will rise again. "The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings" (Malachi 4:2). "The rising sun will come . . . to guide our feet into the path of peace" (Luke 1:78-79.)
We're part of His plan, and thankfully, for me, His plan includes healing, peace, and laughter!
Justine A. Knight is the wife of a deceased Nazarene elder. She is also a retired legal assistant and lives in Oklahoma City.
Holiness Today, May/June 2011