Friday, January 4, 2019

The Gift of Laughter: My Common Bond With Elaine and Dan

Copyright © Kim Roberts  

January 4, 2019. This is the fourth day into a new year. I am upbeat and excited as I have a feeling that this is a new beginning of many hopeful projects and a new stage in my life. The winter coat is still on the hanger by the door with winter boots below, but outside, my stubborn green garden of vegetable and colorful orchid flowers has decided not to stay dormant. There is so much joy, hope, and inspiration in a winter garden even in dreary weather: new citrus buds, inspirited blooming cymbidium flowers, ripen citrus, and nature’s lovely scent in the air—a perfect setting for some exhilarating laughter to break the stillness of time.


This late afternoon I arrived to see Dan and Elaine. Elaine was feeble but she was able to come downstairs by herself with a big smile on her face when she saw me. Still spirited and charming, she was as lively as ever. The hospice care has provided her with a new bed arranged in the separate living room quarters but she still loves the upstairs bed. The moment I gave her winter Kumquats from my garden, she could not believe how I could grow such beautiful fruit.

She cracked up, “Kim, you can perform magic. You can do anything. Your spirit keeps me alive.” Then, when I complimented how well she looked, she laughed, “ Looking good for a dead person, huh? I am supposed to be dead along time ago.” I was tickled, “Yeah, too good for a dead person.” Then Dan joined in and we were giggling. I had told Dan that Elaine is the Energizer’s “bunny” lady. She just keeps going and going.


There is nothing as upbeat and invigorating as a dose of laughter. Laughter can stimulate heart, lungs, brain, and muscles. It increases the endorphins and oxygen intake. It lifts the load caused by mental strain and stress and emotional burdens. So nothing is as inspiring and exhilarating as a hearty laugh. I worked in the morning then solved a complicated problem before coming to see Elaine. Her laughter lifted my spirit and relieved my muscle ache that drug could not do as well. And there she was an eighty-two years old little lady waiting to die. I would be ashamed of myself if I couldn’t do better.

Year ago, I was younger and never analyzed the value of laughter to older folks. But being in love with a much older man and with in-laws who were much older than me, I realized how laughter had bridged the gap between us. The biggest surprise was his sister Laura Taylor’s taste in music, Ray Stevens’ songs. When I first listened to The Mississippi Squirrel or The Streak, I laughed hysterically. Ever since, our special occasion gifts from Laura were always new Stevens’ CDs. For a devout Southern Baptist, she certainly had a liberal view of music. Then one day when Laura was visiting E. B. and me in Alameda, we took her to the Japanese garden inside the Golden Gate Park in SF. Standing in front of the giant statue of Buddha, Laura was chatting with us about the “lost years” in Jesus’ life before his ministry. And she talked about some resemblance of Jesus’ teaching with that of Buddha’s and said she believed that there could be some Buddhist influence in Christ’s legend and prophecy. Then we theoretically attempted to combine Jesus with Buddha. That wasn’t funny but E. B. and I laughed until we were in tears.  

I have a project that Elaine has been my cheerleader. Of course she loves, respects, and trusts me. What caught me off guard today was her immovable faith in me. The first few moments after coming downstairs, the exciting words she blurted out were, “Really? All done? Done?” Then she clapped her hands. But when I showed her something about my project, she was completely awestruck, “I can’t believe I am touching this. I am touching your story, your life. A sacred object.” I was moved to tears. So I decided to give it to her. She revered the copy as if it were a fragile piece of jewelry and pressed it to her heart, “Such an honor! Thank you. Thank you. I feel privileged. Such a privilege! I feel so honored.” I said, “Still a long way to go. Credit is yours. You believe in me.” She laughed, “I did? No way!” Her expression was one of a faithful disciple who witnessed a miracle. Then she laughed again, “Me? Little old me waiting to die?” And I discreetly wiped my happy tears. It’s true that her invigorating spirit got me to complete my project. Her laughter and child-like enthusiasm have wrapped around me and pushed me along the way. I never knew she has that much love, trust, and faith in me. And faith is the most powerful force that can move mountain and part water. I have been living off the motivation, encouragement, and inspiration of her prayers and belief in me.
It was after 3PM so we went to the “Pho” place in San Leandro and chatted more. 

Life needs laughter as laughter gives and enhances the quality of life. Laughter is a gift.

P.S.: It's a miracle that Elaine has lived this long. She has an end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in July 2018 when her kidney function falls below 10 % and she was told she could die in weeks. Then her CKD fell below 4 % and in August 2018, doctors put her under hospice care. ESRD can lead to seizures, coma, cardiac arrest, and sudden death. She is amazing. I am so honored that I can make her laugh. It's a privilege to spend this time with her.


END. Copyright © Kim Roberts   www. sadecinmyheart