A Cup of Joy
In Honor of Titi Myriam, My Beautiful Aunt
Do you know anyone who lights up a room by their mere presence? Full of joy, they carry laughter with them everywhere they go. Their arrival lightens loads and spreads cheer. They are full of life!
I’ve known two people like that: my mother, Maribel, and her older sister, Myriam. When Mom’s side of the family got together, the aroma of Puerto Rican beans filled the air, but laughter was the main course. Grandma’s eyes glowed with eager anticipation when her daughters arrived, for countless stories, anecdotes and jokes soon followed. While the children fought Grandpa for his coveted hammock, the sisters and mother shared the best of life over a cup of joy.
Joy! What is it about that little word? My children are experts at it. A picture of my daughter as a three year-old sits on my desk. Dressed as Snow White, she was leaning over a bed of flowers to take in the scent of an individual rose. The colorful photograph perfectly captures her innate ability to live in the moment. Adults have to work at this continuous awareness and enjoyment of the small, perennial miracles of life. To children, this is completely natural.
I have a mental snapshot of my son as a seven year-old running along the Atlantic shore, his body dancing with the waves. Every few minutes he’d face the wind and the waves and lift his arms, as if in praise. He basked in the majesty of the ocean before him, and one could sense pure joy exude from his whole being. As I watched him, joy bubbled up within me, shooting up, like a geyser, in spontaneous belly laughter. His deep enjoyment of the moment filled me with joy, with life! It was contagious!
“A cheerful heart is good medicine,” says Proverbs 17:22, “but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” When we face tough times, it is so important to guard joy like the treasure it is. Though doctors don’t prescribe it along with other medicines, we should! And we should also remind those who suffer that “the clouds (of life) are but the dust of our Father’s feet.” (Quoted by Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest, p.211)
A few months before my father died, I visited him at the Cleveland Clinic, where they were running tests of his heart. I brought him a book of prayers and notes I’d collected from e-mails that his friends and loved ones sent upon my request. I remember the moment he read the first note. With his gaze still fixed on the page, he sat up in bed, as if wanting to share this gift with his whole body, not just his eyes. As his eyes filled with tears, his whole countenance changed. Suddenly he knew that, spiritually, through the selfless gift of heartfelt prayers and loving concern, he was not alone. He saw the glorious dust of his Father’s feet right there in that empty hospital room and it changed everything.
For the first time in weeks, his medication-induced tremors mysteriously disappeared. As he wrote notes of loving thanks to all those who’d prayed for him, his handwriting was perfectly legible. Perhaps it was the infusion of love he received from this simple gesture that halted the tremors. He thought so himself.
“Do not grieve,” says Nehemiah 8:10, “for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Joy, a close relative of faith, hope and love, is a key to much contentment and the ability to remain inwardly still through the storms of life. There is so much more to wellness than a healthy body. Illness is a part of life and often beyond our control, but the way we face it makes all the difference. And that’s where we can all help each other.
Two sisters light up a room as they walk in. A young child takes in the scent of a rose and summons you, not satisfied to enjoy it alone. A boy stands in awe before the limitless power of the ocean and joins in the dance of the waves. And a dying man sits in perfect stillness, knowing himself loved.
Laughter. Hope. Joy. Love. These are all gifts we’ve been given, treasures we can share with each other as we walk through life. Archibald Rutledge called them life’s extras; I will speak more about them next time. Until then, may we not let those moments pass us by. Let us keep all our senses sharpened, taking in the best that life offers that we may be fully alive!
As for me, I need to go look for some tape. My son and his friend Tommy are making parachutes for their new toy soldiers. I don’t want to miss out on that!
Drink in Life!
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