Cancer, Grief, Hope, Laughter, Words of Endurance

A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face;
a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day.

The topic of conversation was laughter, but you never would have guessed it from our friend Don’s expression. A successful businessman with more to do than hours in which to do it, he confessed – “I don’t know how to see the lighter side of life. I take life too seriously. I know I need to ‘lighten up’ but I literally don’t know how.”

Don isn’t alone. Carole feels the same way. Her husband’s death following a decade-long battle against cancer has left her with an overwhelming new job description – widow, single parent, and recovering but exhausted caregiver. “Some mornings,” she says, “it’s all I can do to get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other.” Learning to lighten up simply isn’t on her to-do list. It’s all she can do to survive.

Been there?

Well so has Beth, whose husband Chad suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease. Chad was diagnosed when she was pregnant with their second child. For the next eighteen years daily life in their home involved life-support equipment, feeding tubes and nurses.

Despite the challenges and uncertainty, their home was anything but gloomy. Early on in Chad’s battle, Beth made a conscious decision to look for the humor in every situation. She knew that if she didn’t the sorrow would overtake her and her family. As a result their home was full of life and laughter – lots of it!

For Beth humor was an important coping mechanism. She agrees wholeheartedly with the person who said, “Laughter is like changing a baby’s diaper – it doesn’t permanently solve any problems but it makes things more acceptable for a while.”

Beth has learned that she is not in control of the circumstances of life. She can control only how she responds to them. Her response is of the utmost importance because her response sets the emotional tone for her entire family. She can afford to lay her problems down – to loosen her grip – so they don’t consume her every thought. She can relax because she knows who controls the circumstances and who holds her in the protection of His hand.

But what encouragement is there for individuals such as Don and Carole who finds themselves in situations in which they simply are not able to see the lighter side and to make matters worse they may even feel guilty for not being able to lighten up? Oh but take heart because God gives us permission – even encouragement – to express the full range of our emotions. The Scripture says there is …

A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,

And in their book, Dear God, It’s Cancer, authors William Fintel, M.D. and Gerald McDermott, Ph.D. emphasize that …

“… both tears and laughter are gifts of God –
and you need them both
to make it through the trials of cancer.”

So no matter how many tears we shed – no matter how deep and dark the pit we found ourselves in – we have discovered on our own journey that there is always a time to laugh and it sure makes the journey easier to endure. As the comedian Bob Hope – who had the gift to make others laugh – said …

“I have seen what a laugh can do.
It can transform almost unbearable tears
into something bearable –
even hopeful.”

On the Journey with You,
Dave and Jan Dravecky