Everyone needs the fun and laughter of life

It was Ruth who was there years ago when a tiny girl needed surgery to lengthen the shortened tendons in her thumbs.
The hospital was a very scary place for a four-year-old–especially when aides came rushing in too late, slid her quickly onto the cart, and hurried her down the halls and elevators of the massive city hospital to a place far away from the safety of her parents.
But then the miracle happened. There waiting for her in the operating room was her friend, Ruth, the young nurse assigned to the surgery. In a single moment, the fear vanished and confidence returned.
The little girl knew she’d be all right if Ruth was there. And that’s exactly what she told the anesthetist when he politely asked, “Is it all right if we put you to sleep now?”
“Well, I guess so!” she said authoritatively. “If Ruth stays here.”
Ruth stayed. And it was she and her friends who flooded the little girl’s room with fun and laughter during recuperation in the hospital.
Over the next four years, it was Ruth who often took the little girl to the symphony and ballet. Or shopping. And it was Ruth who took the whole family on a long-remembered boat trip down the river as a farewell before they moved to a place 2,000 miles away.
But all that was a long time ago. And except for very brief passings since, it wasn’t until last week that Ruth and her husband, Jake, once again came into our lives.
Ever the adventurer, Ruth brought tales of luxury cruises in the Caribbean and scary bus rides over the mountains of South America. Of a vacation on the coast of Mexico and of Jake driving their huge motor home over the Top-of-the-World highway in Alaska.
We talked of losses and grief over the decades and our common love of dogs. We remembered her brother, Les, who died at a young age of diabetes complications. She brought us up to date on her 90-something parents.
We heard of mutual friends who have faced great crises in their lives, and lamented the change in the communities we once shared.
We never really criedbut we laughed a lot. Out loud. And then in one poignant moment, Ruth said, “We’ve had some wake-up calls. I guess that’s why we enjoy life so much.”
And that’s the way it always is in life. Until you face the enormity of life’s grief and pain head-on, you can never really understand how critical it is to seek the healing of laughter.
Ruth and Jake have made that choice–for fun and laughter. And for three healing days, we shared it. We told stories, both new and old. We ate meals at home and at restaurants, and bought fresh flowers for the hearth.
We watched funny movies. We drove around the countryside and took long walks. And then came home and told more stories. And laughed until we almost cried.
Maybe if there were no grief in life, laughter might not be so important. But the poignant truth is that pain is universal, and each of us must make a choice–either to give in to the grief or to find for ourselves and those around us the healing power of fun and laughter.
So what about you? Which choice will you make today?

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