Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Finding the Funny in Tragedy

“A cheerful heart is good medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22)

My sense of humor is multi-faceted. I appreciate a good practical joke. Satire is present in just about every other conversation I have during the day. Slapstick holds a special place in my heart -- I’m not sure how many 34-year-olds there are out there with their DVR set to record Dick Van Dyke on a daily basis! I picked up on self-deprecating humor from my parents. There’s something about pointing out your own flaws before anyone else can that is satisfying--and funny! My husband and I bonded from the moment we met over our ability to laugh at life.

I grew up in a funny family. So many of my memories involve tons of laughter and joking around. My mom was voted “Wittiest” in high school. My dad has a treasure trove of jokes (many self-made) that he can pull out to fit any moment.
When you grow up in an environment mixed with wit, physical comedy, and wisecracking, it kind of rubs off.

I definitely understand that not everyone shares my appreciation for finding laughter in almost all situations. I don’t expect them to. God created us all with differing funny bones, some extremely sensitive and some more refined. We also all deal with life’s challenges in our own way. The natural response for me was to look for humor and comedy in our situation as if looking for a sliver of light in a dark tunnel.

During my pregnancy and after I knew of Elise’s brain injury, I bought and wore a pink maternity shirt that bragged, “My kid is a genius.” We have joked for years about wheeling her around the neighborhood on Halloween night strapped into her standing frame. All she would need is a mask around her mouth and she could go as Hannibal Lecter. These are just a couple of examples of my darker humor.

The thing is, though, if we didn’t find things to laugh at, we would probably just cry. Laughing at something sad or tragic doesn’t make it any less sad or tragic. It just redirects our feelings of sorrow and grief. I still have my fair share of these moments of despair when I think about Elise and the tragedy of her situation. But, boy am I glad that laughter and joy are never too far behind.

As a matter of fact, laughter was present even on the night Elise was born. We were all well aware of what was about to happen. Our lives would be changed forever. The simple, peaceful family life that my husband and I had built with our not yet 2-yr.-old son was going to be forced into chaos. There was nothing to do about it other than meet it head on. As my labor moved along, the delivery room was full of people-- family and friends hanging around. We were taking pictures, laughing, joking, and generally having a really good time. At one point, a nurse asked for everyone to clear out of the room. She had a very somber look on her face. My husband had gone to get something to eat, so it was just her and me in the room. She asked me if I was aware of my situation. Did I understand the status of my soon to be born baby girl? Was I informed of the impending problems and even possibility of death after her birth? I assured this nurse, with a smile on my face, that I did know what I was facing. All of it. She told me something that has stayed with me this many years later. She said, “Well, the way you were all acting--with the laughter and joking and overall joy that was in this room, I figured that there was no way that you knew how sick your little girl is, and how serious this situation is.”

What that nurse didn’t know, is that we pulled our joy, our peace, and even our laughter from our faith in Christ, and His ability to carry us through whatever we had to face. For the last 2 trimesters, we had time to worry, groan, and fret. Elise would be here soon, and it was time to celebrate!

There is no doubt in my mind that my sense of humor has absolutely saved me in times of despair. The day after Elise was born, we were told of her complete deafness in both ears. At the time, that is the extent of what we thought was wrong with her (wow, were we wrong!). In that moment, I felt as if the world was caving in on me. The anguish I felt that day was almost unbearable. Up to that point, I had kept pretty calm about the endless possibilities of problems Elise would be born with. As long as she was in my womb, she was safe and fine. After her birth, we were hit right between the eyes with the fact that, no, everything wasn’t fine. In the days and weeks that followed that initial punch in the gut, many other issues would come to light. Elise was blind. Elise had CP. Elise would be significantly cognitively delayed. With each declaration of her next malady, the punch got softer. After a while, I joked that the doctors could come in and tell me that Elise was going to grow a horn out of her forehead, and I would just ask, “Is there a medication or therapy for that? What do we need to do?” In other words, it’s like you hit a limit on how “bad” you can feel about something. After plummeting to the bottom of the pit we were thrown into when her brain damage was revealed in an ultrasound, the only place to look was up. I don’t know about you, but just the act of looking up puts a smile on my face.

“A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…”
No, this isn’t a song from The Byrds, it’s Ecclesiastes. This verse sums up so much of what life is all about. No matter what your life story is, there is a time for everything. Even laughter.

I laugh in the face of the devil. I’m not suffering. I’m living. I’m happy. I’m a believer in Jesus Christ, and I thank Him for my baby girl, Elise.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”

In the delivery room before having Elise. All of the waiting must have gotten to us! This is Chris playing the part of the doctor...

If you thought that was bad, my dad joined in!

OK, Gigi’s turn. This was at Ty’s birth.

Who knows where we got the lips! Elise was in the hospital with a respiratory infection.

Elise wearing PawPaw’s glasses. I sure wish glasses would help!

Cataract glasses are NOT a good look for a baby!

Elise sporting a mullet! Also not a good look for a baby!

Elise isn’t the only one who can rock a wig! This is Ty wearing a wiglet...

Two goofy boys having a good time. (Lane and Daddy)

This is a typical way my brother interacts with my kids...

Lane's imitation of Elise...

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