The yoke of my sorrow is a gaping, vast void as I yearn for my husband. The ripple effect for me has caused trauma, sleepless nights, spiraling health issues, doubt, frustration and a profound sense of sadness. As I strive to recapture who I am, cherish the past, honor my husband, humbly allow God to mold me, and attempt to embrace the future, I seem to take one step forward and ten back. Grief for me has been a rollercoaster, and not the fun type. I have had to learn to be happy again.

Just before my beloved husband passed away from cancer, my dear mother-in law did as well. She was the type of woman that notably radiated kindness, genuine warmth and a positive, engaging attitude. Her motto in life no matter what hardship life entailed was always, “Happy Thoughts!” During the vulnerable last week of her life, while hospice took over, she repeatedly asked me to sing, Amazing Grace and Jesus Loves Me. My voice wore thin and became hoarse as I held her hand and desired to fulfill her wish. At one point, she reached over, touched my cheek and frailly whispered, “Thank you, Lisa…I love you…please be happy no matter what the circumstance.” As I kissed her forehead, she drifted off into a peaceful slumber.

One of my most cherished friends also passed away from cancer. Janis was a pillar of elegance and faith. When I first met her, I was breathless upon seeing her natural beauty. Moreover, as the years passed, I stood in awe of her authentic compassion as she reflected Christ’s love so brilliantly. When I was a senior in high school, I had the grand privilege of being her pre-school teacher’s assistant for a work study program. Etched into my mind is the image of her singing with our students the song, “If You’re Happy and You Know It Shout, Amen.”

Years later, as she was undergoing chemo, she attended my baby shower for my youngest daughter. One of her gifts to me was a plaque that displayed the quote, “Happiness is not a destination, it is a way of life.” As we hugged goodbye, she thanked me for our friendship and with conviction in her voice said, “Lisa, whatever life throws at you, please continue to shine for our Father and be happy.” Two months later, she took her last breath.

As I wrote this blog, I glanced over to my bookcase, my eyes fell upon a forgotten book that Janis had given me at my high school graduation. It was a homespun book made from our student’s drawings and some of her favorite quotes and verses. This treasury of artwork and thought provoking words revealed that the opportunities to be happy truly do abound. Here are a few splatters of perceptions that stirred and rekindled my being:

What we call the secret to happiness is no more a secret than our willingness to choose life.   -Leo Buscalgia

He that handles a matter wisely shall find good: and whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he.   -Proverbs 16:20

I have found that most people are about as happy as they make-up their minds to be.   -Abraham Lincoln

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.   -Philippians 4:11

As I have shared with you in my previous blogs, my youngest gem of a daughter has severe, low functioning autism. Despite her adversity she is my upmost teacher. Before David’s demise, she dazzled us with every possible way to draw a smiley face. Since his death, her smiley faces abruptly changed to sad ones. Subsequently, last week, for the first time in almost 3 years, she drew a smiley face again! Moreover, she used her augmentative communication program to tell me, “Mom, be happy!” This act delighted my inner core. What a huge step and such a cathartic reminder!

I believe that all of my loved ones, including my husband who constantly reiterated the premise of happy thoughts, prepared me for what was to unfold. Their wisdom lingered in my soul, tucked away to spring forth just at the right moments. My goal is to re-train myself to mirror their example, give God space to work in my heart, and resolve to be happy even amidst the impact and aftermath of my grief.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please feel free to comment and share. I treasure the insight I learn from each one of you as we uplift each other.

Happy Thoughts to You,

Lisa Dempsey Bargewell

My blog topic for next Wednesday: Valentine’s Day: Relentless Love!