During a time of profound grief, an unexpected miracle takes place.
| I had been praying for a miracle, but I was finally surrendered to the reality, I was not going to get the miracle I was expecting. I was sitting at the kitchen table in a state of despair and hopelessness. My life was devastated and in my mind’s eye, as I scanned the horizon before me, I could not see any relief in sight. I was overwhelmed with a sadness that seemed to permeate everything around me. The sorrow seemed to cling to every piece of furniture, every surface, every nook and cranny of my household. The air that surrounded me seemed filled with the heaviness of the anguish that was upon me. It was smothering me. I could hardly breathe without deliberating thinking, “Breathe…one more time….Breathe”. The joy and happiness, which had once been mine, now seemed to have evaporated into thin air.
My husband had been hospitalized for many months and had narrowly escaped death. After his homecoming, life did not return to ‘normal’. I was grateful for his recovery and for the fact that he was still with us; however, when he returned to his family, to us, he was a dramatically different man from the one we had known. A severe traumatic brain injury had transformed him into a complete stranger. The merry mischievous glint, which had once been in his eyes, was replaced with a hollow steely gaze. His affectionate and playful manner disappeared beneath a distant and angry façade. The voice, which was used to encourage and sooth us through the hardships of life, became the tyrannical cadence of an unreasonable dictator. The humor, the hugs, the stories….they were lost…. The doctors said there was nothing more they could do. There would be no cure. This was it. All hope was gone. Final.
I understood that it was not his choice to be altered, I understood that he could not control being a changed man; but the grief of losing the man I knew and loved overshadowed my intellectual comprehension. How can I grieve for my husband when he is right in front of me? How do I embrace a complete stranger into my bosom? How could I ever move forward when all I wanted was to go back and hold on to what I used to have? My anguished heart silently cried out, “Oh Lord, I am so broken! Oh my God, this pain is too much to bear. I can’t find my way out of this despair. Will I ever be happy again? How do I walk this path? Teach me and show me, Lord, how to have joy in the journey if this is what I must accept.”
Within seconds my 2 year old daughter pranced into the kitchen. This small child had no awareness of the sadness that surrounded her. She was perfectly content and happy. The pure joy that exuded from her presence was almost tangible. I instantly wanted to reach out and capture its essence, to bottle it and save it for later. I wanted to soak it in and soak in it! The oil of joy was thick and dense. It poured over my sadness and cloaked it in an impenetrable blanket, if only for a moment. I had to uncover the source of this treasure. She was barely clad as she was in potty-training mode. Her little 2-year-old pot-belly protruded just above the waistband of her new underwear. With all of the vigor of a Latin dancer, she proudly swayed her hips from side to side as she sauntered across the floor.
She continued to frolic in this manner as her voice rang out with a sing-song tune declaring her delight, “I’m sooo happ-y-y-y….I’m sooo happ-y-y-y!!!”
Amazed by her display of innocent felicity, I inquired, “Elizabeth, why are you so happy?”
With all the festive gaiety she was feeling in that moment, she declared in a staccato song, “Be-ca-a-a-a-use….I….ha-a-a-ave….din-o-sa-a-a-ur….under-we-e-e-ear!!”
Oh, the sweetness of her innocence was a like a fresh breeze blowing through my spirit! To be so completely satisfied with such an ordinary pair of underwear, how is that possible? The humorous simplicity of her pleasure struck me. If only it was that easy to be feel happiness again. Is it really that simple? Even as I sat there contemplating whether it was possible to mirror her innocent joy, the delight she expressed somehow began to bubble up within me. The elusive joy transferred to the depths of the anguish I was feeling a moment earlier. Then I laughed. I laughed until I cried.
In that moment, I surrendered my sadness. The laughter released the pain and I began to cry tears of joy. As the cleansing tears flowed down my face and clear liquid streamed from my nose, my body bobbed and heaved in a comical display of conflicting emotions. Laughter followed by sobs. Sobs followed by laughter. This pattern continued until all of the other children ran into the room. As they witnessed this mysterious display of emotions, they may have wondered if Mom was okay. Did she finally crack? Then the miracle happened. They began to laugh too. In the midst of the deepest sorrow we had ever known, we found a vent for our emotional turmoil. The hilarious laughter became contagious.
Elizabeth continued her song and dance and we continued to laugh until we were spent. Our circumstances had not changed a bit. Our life had not budged. The miracle was not an external change in our surroundings, but rather a miracle which changed us on the inside. Nothing in our world had resolved, but in those moments of release, we discovered a key. A key to unlock the door to the hope and joy we had lost. I discovered in the midst of the deepest, darkest sorrow, joy could be found. I uncovered the truth that I am surrounded by life and beauty, innocence and simplicity, abundance and generosity. At times, the circumstances of my life can still close in and press me into awkward and uncomfortable places, but I need to make room for joy. If my heart is to survive, I must search out the unadorned treasures of each day.
They are not truly hard to discover; dinosaur underwear. Back then, my vision became so clouded by the circumstances oppressing me that I lost my eyesight. I became blinded to the unpretentious riches surrounding me and neglected to embrace them. Now, I cherish the ordinary, unpolished jewels of life more than I did prior to my great struggle. I take a bite of chocolate and savor its sugary goodness for a moment longer than usual. I laugh out loud unashamedly and hug those around me with enthusiasm. Hoping my smile will be contagious, I smile at others first in hopes of a smile in return. Sharing stories and looking for humor in life's unexpected challenges has become my signature in communication. I look at the clouds and find the hidden pictures; dragon or horse? A toothpick to dislodge that stubborn piece of food, a warm blanket on a cold day, the unbridled laughter of a child, the sweet scent of the air after a rainstorm; these all, small hidden treasures that revive my spirit.
There will always be reasons to be sad. They still surround me. They are real. They hurt. I can’t deny their existence, but I also allow myself to take a break from the darkness to welcome the light. In those moments when life’s hardships threaten to consume me, my family has a secret weapon. All we have to do is utter the phrase “Dinosaur Underwear” and a spark of hope ignites. Always on the lookout for a tangible symbol of that moment, I have searched in vain for an adult-sized pair of dinosaur underwear. Even though my quest has not yet been fulfilled, I attempt to make a daily effort to clothe my attitude with the spirit of gratitude.
‘Find the joy! Don’t allow this moment to pass by without noticing it’ has become my theme. That was my Father’s answer to my plea in the midst of my darkness. That was how He taught me to have joy in the journey even when the future looked bleak. He taught me to water my thirsty soul from the spring of life that is always flowing with liquid gold.
Whenever I feel like all hope is lost or there will never again be a reason to smile, I remember ‘Dinosaur Underwear’ and the miracle returns.