She said that a vital life coping skill was "learning to laugh in the times in between your pain -- which makes you stronger for the next pain." And I have found that to be so. Laughing between the pain, experiencing joy in the midst of sorrow, a mini-summer in the middle of winter is incredibly life-enhacing.
I was reminded of this while visiting my dear friend Mary and her husband John at their beach condo north of L.A. this past week. Their lives revolve around a growing array of health challenges that John is facing and their days are far from easy. Yet there is love and joy in their home because they never lose sight of what they have shared and still share together and because they are so very good at finding small pleasures and laughing a lot between the challenges and the pain.
There are the joking, fun moments that John has with his remarkable care buddy Jesse, who, between the more ordinary caregiving duties, spends some time with John sitting on the condo's ocean view balcony, enjoying the sight and sound of the surf as well as some excellent cigars.
There are the moments of tenderness when Mary and John look at each other with love and reassurance that, as challenging as their life can be these days, life together is still very good.
And there are adventures together. This past Wednesday, Mary decided to drive north with all of us to celebrate Jesse's birthday at a secluded and wonderful restaurant on Hendry's Beach in Santa Barbara.
We sat outside and enjoyed seafood lunches while watching surfers, frolicking dogs and delighted small children splash in the chilly surf. We smiled when we saw the restaurant's shaded "Dog Parking Station" and made friends with a sweet Golden Retriever named Babaloo who was parked there. We toasted Jesse, laughed a lot and basked in the sunshine.
It was summer in February, a delightful respite from daily realities, a special time shared with very dear friends.
And our wonderful time together reminded me anew that laughing between the pain makes pain easier to bear and keeps joy and laughter in life, no matter how challenging our days.