Laughter through pain
by GLENETTA SHUEY
Some of us remember the famous silent era comic actor, Charlie Chaplin. He was known for his unusual antics on screen. Of laughter he said, “Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain.” A serious quote from a man who made his living making people laugh!
If you have lived any length of time, you have had trying times. Some of those times have found you in a hospital waiting room with your loved ones. Always an anxious time, waiting for news and wondering what the future will hold. I have been there myself many times; as the saying goes: been there, done that! I add to that: didn’t like it!
I remember waiting with my sisters as my Momma was dying. I learned something that week; I learned that even in the midst of sadness, there can be moments of lightness. I had been at the hospital several days, so my husband brought me clothes he picked out; therefore, I definitely wasn’t a fashionista! As we sat there among several other families, my two sisters, Joshlyn and Beth, broke out into uncontrolled giggling. I looked at them as if they had lost their minds! Laughing so hard, they couldn’t speak! The faces of the other people in the room reflected my own bewilderment! Finally, one of my sisters pointed at my shoes, and then it was obvious: I had on two different tennis shoes, both white but totally different! I had been walking the hospital halls all day that way. I then joined their giggling, and I think the entire room of strangers thought that we had lost it! We eventually settled down and quickly made our way to our mother’s room, where even in the silence, we would look at each other and couldn’t help but smile!
In a separate incident, my youngest sister Monica was in a car crash that took the life of her husband when she was only 31. I took a year off to help care for her; she was physically and emotionally damaged. My sister, Joshlyn, and I were doing our best to nurse her back to some semblance of health. We jokingly referred to ourselves as Nurse # 1 and Nurse # 2, but we were definitely not nurse material! We tried our best, even making efforts to cheer our sister up, but to no avail. However, I did so by chance one day as I was attempting to shave my sister’s legs. Her physical condition was so extreme that we had to do nearly everything for her. I kept trying to shave her legs and couldn’t understand why the razor wasn’t working. Joshlyn nearly choked on her laughter as she announced that maybe if I took the cap off the razor it might be easier, and then I began to laugh. I looked at my sister lying there so helpless, and I saw her smile and hold her pillow against her broken ribs. She mouthed through her wired jaw the word ‘Stop’. It hurt her to move, cough, or laugh. But it was so wonderful to see her smile. It has been a story we have shared ever since.
Almost a year and a half ago, I found myself in yet another waiting room. My husband was in a car accident and had slipped into a coma. We were told he wouldn’t make it. I sat there with my daughters daily as he somehow made his way back from death’s door. During those three weeks, my son-in-law, Kenndell, and my grandson, Chase, both had emergency appendectomies within days of each other. I will never forget our family doctor’s words that next morning. Dr. McGregor sighed as he sat next to me in the ICU waiting room, shook his head, and said, “You couldn’t make this stuff up!” Without looking at each other, we began to chuckle, which transformed into full-blown laughter. Before I knew it, I realized I was crying at the same time. Afterwards, as strange as this may sound, I felt better.
Even in the most desperate times, life offers some opportunities for a smile or possibly a laugh, even when seemingly inappropriate! I know many people can relate to these scenarios. We all have our stories to tell; some come from our darkest hours. We are only human after all.
People have long said that laughter is the best medicine. I agree, even though the “medicine” is often for the family rather than the patient. Another beloved comedian and actor, Bill Cosby, remarked wisely: “…once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.” Experience has taught me this is so.
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