Joy is easy when life is smooth. But what about when tragedy shakes us to our core?
We're continuing our celebration of WILD JOY here at The Phoenix Soul. I'm grateful to welcome guest author Brenda Anderson today, who's bravely sharing her search for joy in the face of losing her husband. Join us. -Amanda
Wild Joy Comes on Iridescent Wings
by Brenda Anderson
Is there a place for joy in the worst tragedy? If so, what about wild joy?
I wrote this in the months leading up to the death of my husband, two years ago.
“Well, my husband’s leukemia is back. Where’s the joy?
I remember seeing our first child, beautiful Stephanie. Most people cite the birth of their first child as a moment of pure joy. I’d had a caesarean, so, not undiluted joy. Pain, too!
Everyone knows those joy moments: gorgeous sunrises (sunsets), a mountain or a valley that moves you to tears, moments when people do things that take your breath away.
Back to leukemia. It’s spring now, so on the weekend I got out in the garden, weeded, cleared space 'round the hollyhocks, added fertilizer. The sun so warm on my back, the greenery, that feeling of lushness, all so satisfying. I’m not sure that the garden provides joy, but it sure makes me feel connected, useful, as if I’m doing something totally creative.
Writing does that, too. Because I write speculative fiction, I can lose myself in another world whenever I sit down and get those ideas onscreen. I’ve had moments when a story idea has worked out, sometimes better than I’d imagined, and those are, in my opinion, moments of pure joy. Creativity. Joy. The two go together, which is why the birth of a child sends parents into such a spin. It goes to your head, like champagne. You’re on top of the world.
So I’m thinking, where’s the joy in leukemia? I can go out in the garden and forget about it, for a moment. I can lose myself in my writing. My husband’s still going to be there when I get back to the real world. But I think the unreal world has a lot to offer that everything else lacks.
I think that’s why people love Lord of the Rings, because they can lose themselves in that other world, follow the heroes on their quest and rejoice in the eventual triumph of good over evil. ‘Rejoice’–-see that word--means ‘cause joy to’. Not a modern word, much more likely to turn up in old hymns than pop music. Check out Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Say no more.
Joy. The dictionary describes it as a ‘vivid emotion of pleasure, gladness.’ Vivid.
So, ditch the warm fuzzies, feelings of satisfaction, even standard-issue happiness. They come and go, but joy’s the big league. I think I’m only going to find joy as I face my husband’s leukemia, again, by going to that unreal, or should I say, unseen world. I’ve experienced joy in situations where I’ve opened myself up to God and let his love come in. In the Bible, the writer of Hebrews says, 'Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross …' (12: 2) Hey, there’s joy, and mentioned in the context of the greatest suffering of all.
So this gives me hope--wow, hope too!--that even though this second round battling leukemia might not be pretty, I’m going to find joy along the way. It’s the big league. It gives us a taste of heaven.”
Two years later, wild joy is a random bird that swoops down, flashes its iridescent wings and vanishes again. But it’s there!
Brenda Anderson’s fiction has appeared in various places, most recently in Flash Fiction Online and Every Day Fiction. She lives not far from the sea in Adelaide, South Australia, and tweets irregularly @CinnamonShops.