One of the most transformative and eye- opening experiences I’ve had was through my college’s L.O.V.E. Program. These “LaSallian Outreach Volunteer Experience” destinations were typically outside of the country. However, the winter break one I attend was a domestic trip to San Francisco. Often I look back on those handful of days with a myriad of emotions, but it’s the joyful sadness I remember most.
My favorite part of this experience was the St. Vincent de Paul Wellness Center. This sunny, clean, peaceful place offered everything from poetry workshops and yoga, to regular AA and NA meetings for the homeless that populated the area. Sister Kathleen and her little team welcomed us into their center and showed us how they lived the mission of St. Vincent de Paul each day.
It was during this time I attended my first AA meeting.
Although I was uncomfortable I did my best to listen, really listen, to the words of these people with incredible and humbling struggles. One man’s words have stuck closely with me all these years. He shared with us insight to his daily struggle with his addiction and then gave a great laugh. He said, “I laugh to avoid crying because my heart’s really bleeding.”
Laughter is truly the best medicine.
It is easy to look at your life – wherever you may be in life – and emphasize the negatives, focus on your struggle, and allow yourself to be down. It takes greater courage and an even stronger heart to be able to find the humor in the serious snafus we encounter that change our lives.
Yesterday, the thought of my mom’s physical absence from this world consumed me… and I laughed. It seems ridiculous that she isn’t here; it’s laughable because it is so unbelievable. Then I remembered four days ago when I had the same thought but cried and cursed the heavens. Today I realize that my human self is struggling between two jokes – that of Good and that of Evil.
On my bad days, the devil on my shoulder slivers into my thoughts and hisses your mother was stolen from you before it was time. Who would deny a young woman her best friend and mother? For the rest of your life all your happiness will be tainted with the sadness and absence of your mother.
But, it’s the good days that far outweigh the bad. Because on my good days, the angel on my shoulder is joined by the heavenly choir in singing praises our Linda Joy has returned again. An angel sent to Earth to live a life filled with love and joy. An angel sent to Earth to lead and teach through example. An angel whose Earthly purpose had been fulfilled.
This joke of a question: Did you think you could keep her forever? Has been rattling my brain. And that man’s words from SAN Fran continue to resonate along with the rattling. In my human condition I did think I could keep her forever. And in my heart of hearts and in my soul I know I can do just that in a whole new way. It’s funny because I don’t know what I’m doing, but I have to trust that angel on my shoulder…
And now I know her name.